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BARBADOS - polo - Diamonds International Polo Challenge 2005
Englishman Jamie LeHardie (left) picks up the attack for the Virgin Atlantic as he is closely tagged by Kent Cole (partly hidden) and Benjamin Araya (right) both of Diamonds International team during last Sunday's hotly contested exhibition polo match which ended in an 8-8 tie at the new Lion Castle estate ground in St. Thomas.FOLLOWING an exhilarating final chukka, Diamonds International and Virgin Atlantic shared honours with an 8-8 draw in an exhibition polo match last Sunday.
Attracting a large crowd, the hotly contested match was played at the beautifully landscaped Lion Castle estate's new polo ground, St. Thomas, which hosted its first game.
Denied much activity since the opening of the season which has seen the cancellation of several matches because of conditions made unfavourable by rain, fans came out in their numbers to enjoy the action.
Organised after the official opening of the third annual Diamonds International Polo Challenge was postponed because of the conditions, the match featuring top players from Argentina and England, provided a great treat for spectators who loved it all.
Much to the delight of fans, players defied the ground conditions to exhibit brilliant individual stickwork, clearly indicative of what can be expected in the Diamonds International Polo Challenge now slated to open tomorrow at the Equestrian Centre, Holders Hill, St. James.
Starting with a one-goal handicap advantage on Sunday, Diamonds International, led by Barbadian Kent Cole, took control of the game in the early stages, but then had to fight hard to save defeat in the final chukka of the six-chukka affair.
Playing off an international one-goal handicap, Kent Cole, though not spectacular was effective on attack and had the distinction of scoring the goal in the final chukka to give Diamonds International a share of the honours.
Cole was in fine form scoring three goals for Diamonds International who enjoyed the better of play in the first chukka, frequently broking through Virgin Atlantics defence. But Howard Hipwood, an international six goal player from England, was solid in defence for Virgin Atlantic, averting much of the danger.
The persistent play by Diamonds International finally paid off when goals by Pablo Crespin, an international four-goal player, and Cole swept them ahead 30 before Jamie LeHardie opened the account for Virgin Atlantic, who trailed 13 at the end of the first chukka.
Play was quite intense in the second chukka with Diamonds International forging further ahead through goals by English player Satnam Dhillon, playing off an international six-goal handicap and Argentines Benjamin Araya, the highest handicapped player on show, playing off an international eight-goal handicap.
The determined Virgin Atlantic team continued to fightback and a goal by local player Alex Cole following a fine pass from Jamie Hardie found them trailing 25 at the end of the second chukka.
An intriguing battle ensued in the third chukka with the hard-working LeHardie and his compatriot, Oliver Taylor, both international six-goal players from England pulling pace for Virgin Atlantic and eac scoring to bring the team back within striking distance 45 at the end of the chukka.
Players of opposing teams rode each other hard in the fourth chukka and though Virgin Atlantic appeared a better flowing combination, they were held goalless this session in which Crespin and Dhillon scored for Diamonds Atlantic to move ahead 74 at the end of the chukka.
Virgin Alantic turned in quite a performance in the fifth chukka forcing Diamonds International to defend stubbornly before goals by LeHardie and Taylor again pulled them within striking distance 67 at the end of the fifth chukka to set the stage for an exciting final chukka.
And what a chukka it was! Virgin Atlantic picked up the attack and a goal by LeHardie enabled them to level the score 77, while Alex Cole scored on a break away to give them the lead 87 for the first time in the match.
But with time running out, Kent Cole, made most of a close range effort for Diamonds International to share honours. Jacob Hassid of Diamonds International said that he was indeed happy to see the enthusiastic response by the large number of fans who all appeared to have enjoyed the game. He thought the members of the local polo club did their best under the circumstances. This was a fantastic effort by the club members to make play possible and every one enjoyed the game and they could not have asked for more.Ç
(Compliments of the Barbados
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