Mixed and Ladies’ Opens
On the impeccable ground of Chantilly Polo Club, in the shadow of the famous castle and grounds the 2016 Open de France was played out under stormy skies. The game was fast paced and a little furious in paces as Maquard Media, the 2015 champions, had to fight to retain their title. Mochi Chic gave them a run for their money, it was a great game to watch as both teams were evenly matched on player skillsets and pony power. Continental Europe can often be seen as a poor man’s cousin to the UK polo scene but all the games, even the tiny kids on the Shetlands, showed that they are serious about their polo. There was no denying the quality of the ponies that zoomed up and down the boards awaiting mid-chukka changes and the ground held up pretty well considering the sun-rain-drizzle conditions throughout the games. Martin Aguerre, for Maquard Media, was well paired against Dario Musso, for Mochi Chic. Both 7 goalers had a chance to make some pretty impressive plays. Musso even managed an early goal with a huge hit from the centre line, which started to go wide, and somehow out of nowhere he appeared to hit, not just a cut shot, but a backhand cut shot into goal.
The score fluctuated from team to team throughout the five chukkas. Mochi Chic were in the lead 2-1 at the end of the first chukka, but by the end of the second chukka it was 3-3. Aguerre scored early in the third chukka to take the lead 4-3 and by half-time,hard work from both sides brought the score to 7-4 in favour of Maquard Media to whom it seemed there would be an easy win. After treading in, and a deluge of rain that sent spectators scattering for shelter inside the Richard Mille sponsors’ enclosure, the game began again and Mochi Chic took advantage of the change in conditions to score a few more goals and close the gap, 7-6. The fifth chukka had just one goal in it for the first few minutes, but Maquard Media steamed ahead and took the win with a final score of 10-7. Fittingly, Aguerre was named Most Valuable Player and his nine-year-old bay mare Machitos Garaganta took Best Playing Pony.
Scheduled for before the mixed French Open, after three rounds of games in the lead up to the Open de Feminin Final on Sunday 18 September, three of the four ladies’ teams tied on points resulting in a penalty shootout for the Final spots. La Hermanitas featuring Brits Charlene Goudkuil and Hazel Jackson just missed out, so they played Cosmopolo in the Subsidiary Final which was a whitewash game against the four German girls, meaning our ladies didn’t come home empty handed. The line-up for the Final included Apes Hill Polo Club’s Camilla Williams and her dream team facing Maryland, with its own formidable ladies. The game was open and fast from the start, with both of the teams top pros hitting some huge shots keeping play fast from the offset. The Subsidiary Final had suffered, not from a lack of skill, but with Jackson being the only big hitter on the field, the play was often stifled by shorter shots and scrappy pile-ups.
Gabriella Turk and Caroline Anier alongside Hurtwood Park local Bryony Taylor and South Wanston’s Heloise couldn’t stem the constant threat of attack and goals as solid play from Huntingdon Apes Hill nudged them towards their goal each time they made progress. The lowest scoring game of the day with a final score of 4-2 didn’t quite live up to the standard of play. There were just a few more attempts at goal that went wide. Emma Boers, backed up by the formidable Fox and Taylor pairing made a few fantastic runs to goal, whilst Williams never let the side down when the attacks came from their well-balanced opposition.
It was a great example of women’s polo and even better to see so many British based female players do so well abroad, taking the top three positions in the final rankings.
Open de France Final teams:
Maquard Media (16): Tommy Rinderknecht (0), Martin Aguerre (7), Martin Joaquin (4) & Jota Chavanne (5)
Mochi Chic (16): Alexandre Sztarkman (1), Pierre-Henry Ngoumou (5), Dario Musso (7) & Nacho Kennedy (3)
Open de Feminin Final teams:
Huntingdon Apes Hill (16): Emma Boers (4), Lucy Taylor (5), Camilla Williams (0) & Tamara Fox (7)
Maryland (15): Caroline Anier (6), Bryony Taylor (4), Héloise Lorentzen (4) & Gabriella Turk (1)
Photograph: Maquard Media, winners of the 2016 Open de France. By Lucy Wilson/Polo Times