Golden Goal Wins National.
Hilali Noordeen’s Sifani polo team meeting Simon Arber’s Four Quarters in the 15 Goal Final of the HPA National Club Championships was always going to be a battle, but the match on Sunday 5 February at The RCBPC turned into an epic. It took a fifth chukka golden goal to decide the winner.
The game started with two goals to Four Quarters for the handicap difference (0:2), so Sifani immediately had some catching up to do.
Sifani threw themselves into the challenge, putting pressure on the Four Quarters’ defense. Nico San Roman gave away a penalty and Mickey Henderson put the first score on the board for Sifani. However, Four Quarters were quick to recover and scored themselves, taking their tally up to three (1:3). Four Quarters again gained possession and were taking the ball towards the Sifani goal when they were obstructed and the referee awarded them a 15 yard penalty. Richard Tyrone kept his cool and converted this to a goal, 1:4. With three minutes remaining another penalty was awarded to Four Quarters down their own end. They took the ball up the arena to Sifani’s end but met strong defense from Ryan Pemble. The play moved to the centre of the arena with the two teams tussling and locked together until Henderson managed to make a break for goal and Four Quarters gave away a penalty. Pemble took the score up to 2:4 from the penalty spot and immediately won back possession and took a shot at goal from distance which hit its target. There was under a minute left on the clock when Four Quarters took the score up to 3:5. But they seemed rattled at the end of the chukka and gave away a 25 yard penalty, which was moved up to a 15 yard when San Roman complained, making it a formality for Pemble to convert – taking the score to 4:5.
The second chukka started in the same vain with Sifani now looking the stronger. Ryan immediately leveled the score to 5:5, and an obstruction in front of goal won him a penalty, 6:5. There was some great team play by Sifani deep into Four Quarters’ half. Henderson called Pemble off the ball and took it into the corner. Hilali Noordeen picked it up and passed back to Henderson who had broken free and was able to run to goal to score – 7:5. But Four Quarters weren’t going to lie down and let Sifani run away with the match. They put the pressure back on and won a penalty, Richard Tyrone closing the gap to within one goal. Henderson was able to score one straight back, but the ping pong game continued and a scuffle in front of Sifani’s goal gave away a penalty one, bringing the score to 8:7. Into the final minute on the clock and the pressure from Four Quarters began to tell on Sifani. From a spot hit down their end Four Quarters ran the ball up the arena and forced a penalty. Tyrone wasn’t missing anything this afternoon and leveled the scores. With just ten seconds left on the clock Four Quarters were awarded a penalty from the centre spot. Again they cranked up the pressure around the Sifani goal mouth. The chukka ran into the extra thirty seconds and after some frantic defending Sifani cracked and gave away the inevitable penalty. Tyrone took the score to 8:9 and the hooter ended the second chukka.
The third chukka started with the two teams battling hard, but despite giving away a penalty Sifani was looking the stronger. However they weren’t able to capitalize on their chances with two shots at goal going wide of the mark. But the pressure they were putting on Four Quarters seemed to pay off when they were awarded a 25 yard penalty. Pemble shot at goal only to be blocked by Tyrone who then ran the ball up the arena and won a penalty one, taking the score to 8:10. It started to feel like it wasn’t going to be Sifani’s day, but Henderson wasn’t giving up yet and scored from the line out, 9:10. The play was locked in the last third of the chukka with both teams pestering each other’s goals, but each time it was the attacking team giving away the penalties. With half a minute on the clock Pemble won a penalty in the Four Quarters’ half but wasn’t able to capitalize. Right on the bell it was Four Quarters turn to win a penalty which Tyrone duly put in the goal, 9:11. The game was nearing the end of the extra thirty seconds when Sifani won another penalty, but this was again from 25 yards and with the last hit of the chukka Pemble unfortunately put it wide.
The crowd of spectators prepared themselves for what they thought would be the last chukka. With the score at 9:11 Sifani needed to score first to stay in the game. Great play by the team’s patron, Hilali Noordeen, won them a 15 yard penalty and Pemble was able to close the gap to one goal. But the reprieve didn’t last for long, and Four Quarters took the score to 10:12. The pressure the two teams were putting on each other was relentless. Eventually Four Quarters cracked and Pemble was able to dribble the ball into their goal, 11:12. The second half of the chukka continued with tit for tat scoring. Four Quarters scored from a penalty, then Sifani did the same, 12:13. Sifani put pressure on Four Quarters but weren’t able to capitalize, then it swung the other way and a penalty was given away. Tyrone took the score to 12:14. Sifani was having to defend hard and with only thirty seconds on the clock it looked like the gap would be too much to close. But Pemble hadn’t read this script. He found himself some space and took a long shot at goal. It found its mark, scoring double points for Sifani, 14:14. Game on. With the clock ticking down the extra thirty seconds Sifani gave away a penalty, and at 15 yards Tyrone wasn’t going to miss. But just when you thought it was all over Sifani threw everything they had at Four Quarters goal and Pemble brought the scores level at 15:15. There was just time for the ball to be thrown in after a stop of play, but then the hooter blew, meaning an extra chukka would be needed to decide the game.
The players prepared for the extra chukka and focused on scoring that golden goal to win the game. Positive play from Sifani won them a penalty, but at 25 yards Pemble was under too much pressure and the shot went wide. The play went from end to end with the defensive plays holding firm and there were no goals. Finally the game was to be decided from a huge backhander by San Roman that sent the ball down the arena towards the Sifani goal mouth. Tyrone was impeded before he could take a shot and the resulting 15 yard penalty was a formality for him. The golden goal and winners of the National Club Championships went to Four Quarters.