Heavy rain in the San Antonio area resulted in a last-minute venue change for the inaugural Allied Services Cup, relocating from Texas Military Polo Club LLC (Poteet, Texas) to Legends Polo Club (Kaufmann, Texas) Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6. Losing one team and gaining two (finalists Villa Ecleto and Legends Polo Club) with the host site change, five competitive teams descended upon the arena, consisting of active, retired or honourably-discharged military service men and women and their family members. Villa Ecleto (Juan Campos, Morgan Tennant, Lalo Ramirez) booked their spot in the final after surviving round-robin play with two victories, while Legends Polo Club (Marcus Murphy, Don English, Nacho Estrada) captured a hard-fought 15-13 semifinal victory, setting the scene for a competitive final. Establishing a strong lead after a dominant second chukker, Villa Ecleto emerged victorious 14-6, securing their position in the annals of Allied Services Cup history.
Villa Ecleto’s Lalo Ramirez running ahead of Legends Polo Club’s Don English.
Building on his 10-goal performance from round-robin play, Ramirez struck first for Villa Ecleto, scoring back-to-back goals to open the game, but a resilient Legends Polo Club countered with a goal from Estrada. Murphy brought Legends Polo Club within one goal to end the first, but a decisive second chukker proved to be a key moment in the match. Alternating goals, Villa Ecleto’s Ramirez and Tennant produced a formidable offensive duo which together accumulated five consecutive goals, holding Legends Polo Club scoreless. “Morgan [Tennant] played an unbelievable offensive game and Juan [Campos] did a great job on defense,” Ramirez said. Villa Ecleto entered halftime with an 8-2 lead which they would continue to build upon in the second half.
Villa Ecleto’s Morgan Tennant reaching for the hook on Don English of Legends Polo Club.
Estrada opened scoring in the third chukker as Legends Polo Club set their sights on mounting a comeback but ran into an organized Villa Ecleto defense. Holding their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the chukker, Villa Ecleto restored their six-goal advantage when Campos added his first goal to the tally. “Our strategy was based first on good defence and always marking our opponents,” Campos said. “When we attacked we tried to do it as fast as we could!” A determined Legends Polo Club pushed forward with their best effort to open the final chukker, receiving two quick goals from English to come within four. Capturing another four goals to bring his total to 10, Ramirez took control of the game and led Villa Ecleto to an impressive 14-6 victory and inaugural title.
Bringing together military members from countries around the world, the Allied Services Cup was created to celebrate and honor the sacrifices made by all veterans. “My grandfather served in the Army and he was always one of my biggest supporters in polo, he never missed a single game,” said Leaseplan’s Megan Flynn. “He passed away some time ago, so it was really special to play in a tournament to honor him and all others who have served our country.” “My paternal grandfather was in the cavalry during World War II and my maternal grandparents also served during that time,” Tennant shared.
Leaseplan’s Megan Flynn hitting the neckshot against Legends Polo Club in their semifinal match.
Playing effectively alongside her teammates, Morgan Tennant was named Most Valuable Player. “It was a real honor to be awarded MVP, I definitely feel like I left it all on the field,” Tennant said. “Creating avenues for Lalo [Ramirez] to make a play was a large part of what I did, and I credit all of my success to the horses I rode. Villa Ecleto owned all the horses Lalo and I played, and he picked out each one for me to buy so to see them all come together to help us win was the most rewarding experience. His skill in horsemanship and having every horse ready to play hard chukkers was evident to all.”
Villa Ecleto’s Morgan Tennant, ahead of the pack, was named Most Valuable Player.
“My great uncle was a Bletchley Park codebreaker in the United Kingdom and worked on the Enigma code.” – Morgan Tennant
Legends Polo Club’s Marcus Murphy received the Sportsmanship Award. “I have an uncle and two cousins who served in the military so I was honored to represent the people who fight daily for our freedom,” Murphy said.
Layana, an 8-year-old buckskin appendix played by Lalo Ramirez in the second and fourth chukkers and owned by Morgan Tennant received Best Playing Pony honors. Previously owned and trained by Ramirez, Layana was sold to Villa Ecleto, but he still enjoys playing her. “She’s an absolute machine – she has an incredible mouth, more speed than any of our other horses and takes off like a rocket,” Tennant said. “She’s very powerful. Usually I play her, but for this tournament Lalo and I agreed he could better utilize her, so he played her two chukkers each day. That’s how tough she is! There were multiple goals where Layana’s athleticism was the difference between us scoring the goal or not.”
Villa Ecleto’s Lalo Ramirez hitting a backshot on Best Playing Pony Layana.
One of two new national armed forces tournaments, the inaugural Allied Services Cup is another opportunity for military personnel to come together through their shared interest in polo. The Armed Forces Committee would like to extend their thanks to Nacho Estrada and Legends Polo Club for making the tournament possible and hosting with short notice. “It was fun to see people I know from the central region playing in this tournament and learning about their military connections,” said Leaseplan’s Brady Williams. “My two younger brothers are active duty Lieutenants in the Navy and I hope that one day my brother who flies in the P-8 squadron can once again play polo with me.”
All photos courtesy of ©David Murrell.