England dominated in the first installment of the Kings Head Hotel Ladies International versus the USA on Sunday, June 26, at Cirencester Park Polo Club in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England. Despite a resounding final score 11-4.5, the USA put forth a valiant effort that kept the English ladies on their toes, final score notwithstanding.

  USA began the first of four chukkers with a .5 goal advantage due to differences in handicap; England cumulatively rated at 26, USA at 25. The countries appeared evenly matched in the first trading goals throughout; Tamara Fox put England’s initial tally on the board, which was quickly answered by USA’s KC Krueger on a penalty conversion. USA held a narrow 2.5-2 lead after the opening period, but women’s 10-goaler Nina Clarkin took control in the second scoring back-to-back goals. Krueger would once again score from the penalty line to keep USA neck-and-neck with the brits at halftime 4-3.5.

USA's Erica Gandomcar-Sachs breaks away from the pack. ©Tom Reynolds
USA’s Erica Gandomcar-Sachs breaks away from the pack at full speed. ©Tom Reynolds

A determined English team galloped onto the field after the half with a new strategy that took the USA by surprise. Keeping the USA scoreless, two more goals from Clarkin, followed by a third from sister and teammate Fox continued their forward momentum.

“It was a very fast game, which is always such fun to play! The first two chukkas were close with both teams scoring some great goals. In the second half we concentrated on holding Erica in the lineouts ‎and trying to punch the ball through. The ground was in really good condition, considering a high goal game had just been played before us, so we were able to carry the ball quite well and the horses loved running on the ground. ”  – Tamara Fox

England’s Nina Clarkin on the ball, Tamara Fox and KC Krueger close behind. ©Tom Reynolds
England’s Nina Clarkin on the ball, Tamara Fox and KC Krueger close behind. ©Tom Reynolds

Entering the final chukker with a four-goal lead 7-3.5, England exploded scoring four more combined goals from Clarkin and Heloise Wilson-Smith; including a safety that Clarkin expertly knocked high and out of reach of the defending USA players. Maureen Brennan would break the USA’s lull with a closing goal shortly before the final horn, but England would ride off with the inaugural trophy title.

“I really want to thank the Hurlingham Polo Association, David Woodd and Tamara Fox for bringing a real professionalism to women’s polo,” said Brennan. “The depth of the players in England is impressive. Playing against them is a guaranteed great and classic match, as any team of four players they put on the field is talented and will create a challenge for any opponent,” she continued. “I really want to acknowledge the support we received by those in the host country that supplied the horses and grooms and helped us practice, etc.; we couldn’t get organized without them.”

USA’s Courtney Asdourian winner of the 'PQ Horsemanship Prize' with Aurora Eastwood, editor of PQ magazine. ©Tom Reynolds
USA’s Courtney Asdourian winner of the ‘PQ Horsemanship Prize’ with Aurora Eastwood, editor of PQ magazine. ©Tom Reynolds

“Playing internationally is a continuous learning experience that can only improve all of our polo. ”  – Maureen Brennan

The second test match will take place on Saturday, July 29, on International Day at Guards Polo Club (Egham, Surrey, England) playing for the Westchester Cup in memory of Sunny Hale. Teams for the second event will be forthcoming.