Tigresses win World Elephant Polo Championships

Built around Samantha Prentice as the pivot, without doubt the best lady player on the planet, the quartet comprising Stine Edwards, Carolyn Syangbo and Lucy Monro as Sam’s support are sponsored by EFG and Equestrio and have been playing together since 2011 winning Bronze twice (2011 and 2013) and Silver once (2012). This year the girls had their sight firmly set on Gold. And Gold it was to be. They lifted the World Cup at Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge in Bardia, western Nepal, after beating the Magpies 4-3.

The day dawned misty on the jungle fringe in Bardia as the best elephant polo teams in the world awoke on the day they would do battle for Olympic and World titles.

First up on the field the Pareto Pirates and the Pukka Chukkas sparred with spirit before drawing 5-5 and magnanimously agreeing to share the Combat Cup, the prize for the third, fourth play-off in the WEPA Olympic Quaich.

Next up the Rusty Kukris and Gal Oya rode out to contest the Quaich final. The encounter developed into a battle that was a duel to the last bell from which British military’s most dapper quartet emerged victorious 7-6. And then it was time for the big one…

The 33rd final of the World Elephant Polo Championships was historic in every way. For the first time in the history of the tournament the final was an all-girl affair after the Magpies had successfully defended their handicap advantage to cause the upset of the tournament by knocking the title-holders EFG out in the semi-finals.

Against the Tigresses the Magpies enjoyed a handicap advantage of two goals but it was to prove insufficient against the might of the world’s most experienced ladies team who held their opponents goalless in the final. The match started with the scoreboard, reflecting the handicap, at 3-1 to the Magpies

The Magpies played a strategic blocking game, setting out to mark Sam Prentice hard but the Tigresses are masters of open play and passing and, while the rookie pretenders to the ele polo throne did successfully thwart many breakaway attempts, they were unable to stop them all.

By half-time Sam had scored twice to equalise, 3-3. The Magpies had made the Tigresses work hard for their goals but from the outset it was the Tigresses who dominated play with the ball rarely crossing into the Tigresses’ half. For the Magpies Tess Darby produced some accomplished moves but time and again Sam broke free and each time her Tigress teammates were perfectly placed to support her.

The winning goal came from open play well into the second half. The moment was a decisive one. The Magpies maintained their tight defence but could never find the space they needed to break into Tigress territory and as the final bell sounded the Elephant Polo World Cup was soundly in Tigress possession.

Closing the day’s matches EFG played Tiger Tops Tuskers in the third, fourth play-off drawing 8-8 in an encounter that notably saw Peter Prentice released from defence where he had played all week to send a couple of cracking goals through the Tuskers’ posts. The occasion also marked the retirement of the sport’s co-founder James Manclark who, once again announced his retirement from elephant polo. Rather than burning his boots however he has handed them to Nicola Gapp for safe keeping so there remains slight doubt that we won’t see him back in the ele polo saddle.

Samantha Prentice won the EFG Most Valuable Player Award for the second time (having previously won it in 2011) and rode out the highest scorer of the tournament by a massive margin with a remarkable 27 goals to her credit.

Defence elephant Sona Kali, playing only her second season of elephant polo at 35 years old, and her mahout Hitlal Mohato, who has cared for her for 22 years, won the Equestrio Best Playing Elephant Award.

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