Anyone who put a tenner on the nation that spread polo to the world would have been nervous about their bet as USA vs. England unfolded on Saturday, September 4th, for the 30th anniversary season of the Newport International Polo Series, presented by Turkish Airlines. This historic and much-anticipated rivalry traces its roots more than 100 years back to the founding of America’s first polo club in Newport, RI, and the first international polo competition in the world when those buccaneering Americans challenged English army officers to a match. The English came riding high after retaking the cup in 2019, but USA was equal to the task for a mallet to mallet duel.
A beautiful start to the Labor Day weekend made for pleasant picnicking as eager spectators lined the field to enjoy an afternoon under the warm September sun. A duo of British excellence, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Bentley Bentayga, drew a sizeable crowd to the Herb Chambers Exotics Village for a gander at the rare autos. A short stroll away, the Vendor Village was abuzz with enticing handbags and accessories from newcomer, Fleurissant Newport, alongside a collection of rarities offered from music and sports memorabilia to the ongoing art auction benefiting the Jeffrey Osborne Foundation. Of course, a breeze through the Pro Shop for the latest team sportswear arrivals is always a must. Gaiety on the field ensued ’till the stroke of 4PM when the familiar sound of The Queens English echoed over the PA as beloved Commentator, William Crisp, invited spectators to their seats for the match start.
USA came prepared to meet the challenge of one of its oldest polo rivals, fielding Minnie Keating in the #1 position. Polo Series Founder and President Dan Keating held court at the #2 position, while fan-favorite Rory Torrey quarterbacked at #3, with the #4 position filled by Jim DeAngelis. England’s contingent included London-trained Michael Zacharski at #1, while borrowed American player Roger Souto filled a last-minute gap at the #2 position. Returning champion hailing from the home of British Polo at Cowdray Park, Max Secunda, captained the team at #3, and Dominic State rounded at the team at #4.
God Save the Queen was followed by The Star-Spangled Banner as all in attendance stood at attention to the national flags waving at centerfield. Then, Herb Chambers Exotics Marketing Director, Christine Scott, took to the field for the official coin toss, determining starting direction for the teams, before the umpires threw the first ball into play. It wasn’t long before the adept English captain Secunda saw through an offensive that earned them the first goal of the match, less than a minute in. The epic struggle was underway with neither side budging an inch. Finally, with fifteen seconds remaining in the first chukker, Torrey landed USA on the board for a 1-all tie. This time, USA was prepared for an all-out first offensive as Torrey scored less than 30 seconds into chukker 2. A defensive stalemate set in again that kept USA in the lead for most of the chukker until State drove home the 2-all tieing goal. Both sides were prepared for an all-out blitz at the start of the chukker 3, blocking all attempts at goal until Secunda broke the stalemate halfway through the chukker. USA‘s resolve began to waver, leaving another opening for Secunda to end the first half with England leading 4-2.
Half-time brought spectators back onto the pitch for the time-honored tradition of treading-in, followed by a return to the Vendor Village to check on auction bids, then refueling with a refreshing drink from the Patio Bar and a gourmet treat from the local Food Trucks. Meanwhile, the teams strategized before mounting up for the second half. The Stella Artois Best In Show judges had a dickens of a time choosing between the resplendent red and white displays, before settling on a group of exuberant tailgaters. A last dash to the Pro Shop to turn in entry forms for a chance at the weekly Door Prize from Whispering Angel and the Turkish Airlines Grand Prize Drawing was made before the match was called back to order.
A rebalancing of power still saw England expand its lead, albeit through much resistance, 5-2 in chukker 4. The USA squad finally found its Saratoga in the fifth chukker, holding off England while Keating and Torrey both advanced to score. England still maintained its narrow 5-4 lead as the final chukker got underway. Swift action by Torrey tied the match right out of the throw-in. Secunda regained England‘s lead a minute later, which held until the halfway point when DeAngelis tied for USA once again. A series of fevered volleys ensued until Secunda hit his target to clinch another victory for England, 7-6.
Both sides reunited for the fan-salute lap around the field, led by those featured British motors from Herb Chambers Exotics, before taking the podium at centerfield for the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Toast and Trophy Presentation. Christine Scott of Herb Chambers Exotics presented the victorious England team with the perpetual cup and special kudos to Max Secunda as the high-scorer of the match. This latest installment saw the historic rivalry draw closer, with slight advantage still to USA, 10 wins to 8 since 2000. Three cheers for both sides sent the players on to the Patio Bar for the Goslings Players’ Hour where complimentary Dark ‘N Stormies were the toast du jour. A sumptuous Lobsterboil was laid out by the masters from McGrath Clambakes & Catering, while DJ AT set up the groove for a dance party that continued into the evening.
Photo album coming soon. Match report photo (above) by Stephen Almeida.
In accordance with RI State reopening guidelines, capacity limits have been lifted at the polo grounds, resuming historic seating options, while some conservative measures remain in place, including and carry in carry out trash after a successful strategy approved last year through the pandemic, when live audiences could still enjoy the Newport International Polo Series polo matches every Saturday as they have for 30 years to witness the timeless sport unfold on the manicured, emerald green at Glen Farm, home of the Polo Series, in a classic exhibition of horsemanship and valor, with host, the Newport Polo Club, where the home team – Newport/USA – meets challengers each season from around the world and as well as teams representing major US cities and regional rivals in one of Newport’s unique traditions & renown attractions.
The Polo Series is scheduled to continue every Saturday through September. The schedule of teams is subject to change without notice, as per RI State mandates and US travel bans which may impact travel and Adult Sports. Stay current with the 2021 team lineup & stats, latest news, events, and more by e-scription to the Gameday Briefing (sign up) and weekly eMagazine (sign up). Both subscriptions are private and spam-free.
The Polo Grounds’ favorable proximity to the shores of the island’s Sakonnet east passage provides reliably cool coastal effects, moderating afternoon temperatures and providing a dependable breeze for the late afternoon polo matches all summer. Minutes from the bustling Newport waterfront, the International Polo Grounds are located on the acreage of Glen Farm, 250 Linden Lane (off of Rte. 138) in Portsmouth, RI. This bucolic setting is the last 100 acres of a pre-colonial settlement from the 1600’s that became the Town of Portsmouth’s original gentlemen’s farm, an 800-acre manorial estate established during a Gilded Age movement of retreat from the high life into pastoral country acres, to become the future home of polo in the next century. Its classical 19th century stone barns and its park-like grounds were rehabilitated by Polo Series founder, Dan Keating in the early 1990’s and continue to thrive as an equestrian & community recreational property, and home of the Polo Series.
The Newport International Polo Series is proud to roll out its 2021 sponsors including Brenton Hotel, Davitt Inc., TD Bank, Turkish Airlines, Modern Luxury Boston, Herb Chambers Exotics, Vanderbilt International Properties, Hotel Viking, Veuve Clicquot, Polo House Privé, Clarke Cooke House, Stella Artois, US Polo Association, Goslings, ROCKSTAR Limo, McGrath Clambakes and Catering, Classical 95.9 WCRI, and promotional partners including Newport Helicopter Tours, The Cocktail Guru, Hannoush Jewelers, Newport Jaguar Tours, International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Mansions, Newport Music Festival, Island Surf and Sport, Northeast Equestrian Life, Newport Sport Fishing Charters, and Audrain Automobile Museum.
“Our sponsors have been with us since the beginning. Without their support, the Series would not be as extensive as it is,” explains Dan Keating, Polo Series founder.
This is the 30th season of Newport International Polo Series, which has hosted teams from 35 nations including, Ireland, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina, France, Egypt, India, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, Nigeria, Portugal, New Zealand, Barbados, Scotland, South Africa, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Kenya, Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Singapore, Monaco, Morocco, Peru, Poland, and Switzerland.
Keep Calm and Polo On. Newport Polo was the first and only live sporting event to win State approval and navigate safely through the pandemic last year. Since 600 b.c., polo, the world’s oldest ball game, has withstood the tests of time throughout its storied history. First recorded in the 6th century b.c. when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a diplomatic tournament, the alluring game caught on with equestrian royalty and cavalry, and took off with globalization. By the time Polo arrived on Newport’s shores during the Gilded Age, the sport was nearly 2500 years steeped in tradition, captivating newcomers like Newport’s summer sporting set who embraced the new pastime, establishing America’s first polo club in 1876. A charter member of the United States Polo Association the club today is still a trailblazing polo club, hosting the Newport International Polo Series public exhibition matches, supporting philanthropic causes, organizing tournaments, polo club member services, and polo instruction year-round. Experience the king of games in its American landing at Newport Polo.