On Saturday, July 29, History was made across the pond at the Guards Polo Club in Egham, Surrey, England. For the first time on record, the Royal Salute Coronation Cup was followed by a women’s polo match. Llangollen USA faced off against Swarovski England for the Thai Polo Club Ladies International Diamond Jubilee Trophy. Each country fielded a team made up of strong, talented players to contest for the title.
Kristy Outhier 8
KC Krueger 7
Maureen Brennan 6
Julia Smith* 5
Nina Clarkin 10
Hazel Jackson 8
Izzy McGregor 4
Sarah Hughes 4
Prior to the game, USA’s Maureen Brennan detailed the hard work that went into preparing for the tournament. “The entire pre-game process is challenging and exciting. We had to locate and try horses, travel to many historic and beautiful clubs throughout the English countryside, worked with many knowledgeable and helpful people in the industry and worked together as a team to increase our chance of success. All of the behind the scenes effort of so many is crucial and therefore has an impact on game day. That is part of what I love about polo and the opportunity to play at such an important venue and historic match- the process. Women’s polo is continuing to expand and this event is proving that it is an integral part of the future. We are grateful for the invitation from the Hurlingham Polo Association to be included in this moment that will highlight female players and provide a platform for the next generation of young women.”
Sporting matching white helmets adorned with rose illustrations and Swarovski crystals, England gained possession early with a beautiful run by Clarkin, falling just short of the goal. England continued to put the pressure on in the early stages of the opening chukker, with another long run to goal, this time by Jackson, but mayhem in the goal mouth resulted in a save by USA’s Outhier. Back-to-back goals from McGregor kept USA at bay, resulting in a shutout first chukker. Continuing to play well defensively, USA made a second save just before the ball went through the uprights. The first half ended with an amazing 70-yard field goal from 10-goaler Clarkin on Basil giving England a 3-0 lead.
Play continued to be open and fast-paced in the second half as England stormed the field scoring an astonishing four consecutive goals- two of which were from Jackson on a remarkably quick horse named Celtic. Despite their scoring deficit, USA remained unwavering in their determination, continuing to battle for control. An opportunity to convert a penalty halfway through the third gave USA the chance to get a goal on the board. Krueger calmly took the shot, sending the ball high between the posts and through for the score. With renewed enthusiasm, USA began to show their offensive strategy. USA’s Smith, riding Enzo, took the ball out of the lineup to give her team the first field goal of the game. With one chukker left, England had a significant advantage over USA 7-2. Jackson quickly added an additional goal to the England tally at the start of the chukker. USA answered with a beautiful neckshot to goal by Smith. It was obvious that USA was finding their rhythm and getting back into the game, however, it was too little too late. England rode away with the Thai Polo Club Ladies International Diamond Jubilee Trophy with a final score of 8-3.
“We started well and things really came together for us,” said Nina Clarkin. “We gelled as a team and from the outset were attacking hard, creating some space and we scored some good early goals. The game was fast, open, and competitive and the final score line does not do justice to the quality and competitiveness of the game. My team played so well and I am not only incredibly proud of them, but I am so excited about the future of ladies’ polo in England as they represent the talent and skill that is abundant in the up-and-coming players. They outdid themselves and I couldn’t have asked for more from my team. We were all honored to be out there for such an historic occasion and I hope that we can continue to showcase the quality of women’s polo, not only in England, but globally in the future.”
The Swarovski Most Valuable Player prize was awarded to England’s Hazel Jackson. Nina Clarkin’s grey mare Jess, a retrained racehorse, won Best Playing Pony.
Following the game Kristy Outhier shared her thoughts on playing in England. “It is exciting to see polo prospering in all of its tradition here in England. There is polo everywhere and every club boasts its own beauty and heritage. As the U.S. Team, we are extremely grateful to have been invited to take part in history here this weekend alongside the English Women’s Team. Additionally, we are very proud to be sponsored by Llangollen and Donald and Patricia Brennan, who have been strong supporters of polo at all levels. They truly love and live the passion behind polo: sacrifice, effort and commitment. Our invitation from the Hurlingham Polo Association and the English Women’s Team is a true testament to our late friend Sunny Hale who put the inspiration in all of our hearts to play great polo and pursue our dreams.”
*Julia Smith is a member of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos © Images of Polo