Historic Savile Cup on the line in Hastings polo

Up to 800 horses are in Hawke’s Bay for the Savile Cup national club polo championships, which started on Tuesday and end on Sunday.

The tournament, played on three fields each measuring 274 metres in length and 146 metres in width at the Hawke’s Bay Polo Club headquarters at Hastings’ Elwood Park and across the road in the oval at the Tomoana Showgrounds, has attracted 32 four-player teams from 12 North Island clubs.

New Zealand Polo Association immediate past-president Richard Hunt, well-known as a former veteran Hawke’s Bay Magpies rugby front-rower, Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union chairman and NZRU board member, said: “Unfortunately, there are no teams from the South Island.”

Some have up to 10 horses each.

The cream of the country’s players are still present, including defending champion Mystery Creek players JP and Nina Clarkin, and Auckland A’s Cody Forsyth, whose sides are most favoured to play in the Sunday 3pm final for the Savile Cup, one of five championships decided during the six-day competition.

Forsyth and Auckland club Hololio’s Paco O’Dwyer are the only two seven-goal-rated players in the tournament.

Mystery Creek opened its campaign yesterday with a 10-6 win over Hawke’s Bay A, the first of the games in the four-team Savile Cup section, and Hololio Ashmole beat Auckland A 9-6 in the second today.

There are five teams from the host club, which is one of three Hawke’s Bay clubs taking part, which all had teams with at least one win over the first two days, including Pakipaki-based Birchleigh’s 5-4 Wednesday win over Hawke’s Bay B.

Lucy McLean (centre) playing for Birchleigh in an all-Hawke's Bay C-teams Wood Trophy match against Wanstead, who won 7-1.5. Photo / Paul Taylor
Lucy McLean (centre) playing for Birchleigh in an all-Hawke’s Bay C-teams Wood Trophy match against Wanstead, who won 7-1.5. Photo / Paul Taylor

The Savile Cup was first presented in 1891, and has often been contested in Hawke’s Bay, most recently in Hastings three years ago, but it is almost 40 years since a Hawke’s Bay club is last thought to have won the major title – Wanstead’s triumph in Hastings in 1984.

At other venues the tournament would normally be played in March, but in Hastings it is played in January-February to avoid a clash with the New Zealand Horse of the Year shows.

Hawke’s Bay’s own nationally-rated club tournament, the Dewar Cup, will be held next month.

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