By: Shane Hurndell
Shane Hurndell is a sports reporter for Hawke’s Bay Today
Canterbury polo stalwart Pete Dormer reckons the 14 blue cod his team caught en route to the Hastings-hosted national Savile Cup tournament was a good omen.
His Christchurch team started their trip north with 44 horses spread across five trucks on Saturday. They stopped in Blenheim for some training chukkas.
While at the top of the South Island they went on a fishing trip in the Marlborough Sounds and were thrilled with their 14 blue cod.
“It was a secret spot,” Dormer said before he could be quizzed on the exact location.
They continued their north-bound expedition and after giving their horses a break from the trucks in Masterton on Tuesday arrived in Hastings that evening. On Wednesday they proved they had done everything right with their horses on the trip as they beat Rangitikei 10-6.
Yesterday they beat Auckland 9-6.
Pipeline contractor Dormer is hoping for a repeat of his last Savile Cup tournament in Hastings in 2017 when he captained Hurunui to a 9-8 victory against Mystery Creek in the final. The last Christchurch team to taste Savile Cup glory was in 1927.
While Dormer, a one goaler who is playing the No 2 role, has every right to push the blue cod omen theory the fact his team has the services of English seven goaler James Harper in the No 4 spot also has a lot to do with the Cantabs success to date. A seven goaler, Harper, 40, is Britain’s best player.
“I’m a regular visitor to New Zealand because my wife is from here. But this is my first Savile Cup and first time playing in Hawke’s Bay,” Harper said.
A British Gold Cup and Queen’s Cup winner last year, Harper, believed the care his team, which also includes 18-year-old zero goaler and Lincoln University student Zoe Reader in the No 1 spot and 22-year-old four goaler and New Zealand representative Sam Martin in the No 4 spot, takes of their horses will play a major part in their success come the business end of the 23-team tournament which ends on Sunday.
“It’s so hot here and because we arrived on Tuesday we have had to play on three consecutive days,” Harper explained.
After today’s semifinals they will be able to rest their horses tomorrow before Sunday’s final or playoff for third depending which match they qualify for.
Chichester-based Harper started playing polo when he was 12 and has been a professional since he was 17. He regularly buys New Zealand horses.
A father of three boys, Harper, will play against his oldest son, 18-year-old Will, at the New Zealand Open tournament in Auckland on February 22.
Canterbury stock agent Martin played for New Zealand in a win against Australia in December. He will pull on the silver fern again when New Zealand play South Africa in Kihikihi on February 8.
“Now I’m in the New Zealand team I have to try to stay there and do my country proud,” Martin said.
A former Methven rugby player, Martin, has played polo for the past 11 years. Like Harper he is confident Christchurch could go all the way providing the journey and heat don’t take their toll on the horses.
“As long as we keep getting better and take one game at a time we will have a chance,” Martin added.
Hawke’s Bay D maintained their unbeaten run with their third consecutive victory in the MacKenzie Salver section yesterday. The team of English professional Ollie Jones, South Africa import LeRey Young, Jonty Apatu and Victoria Muir beat the Wanstead B team of Nick, Dan and Tim Coddington and Kylie Ebbett 6-2 to secure a berth in tomorrow’s semifinals.
Hawke’s Bay E also maintained their unbeaten MacKenzie Salver run with a 6.5-4 win against Rangitikei B. Hawke’s Bay C beat Poverty Bay 5-2 in their Riddiford Levin Cup clash.
The other match in this section saw Waimai beat Kihikihi B 9-3. The other MacKenzie Salver matches saw Birchleigh beat Wanstead C 7-1.5 and Auckland B beat Rangitikei C 10-2.
The only Wilson Cup clash saw the President’s team beat Wanstead A 10-7. The other Savile Cup battle between Ashmole and Morningstar was still in progress after the deadline for this edition.