Samurai successfully defended the third edition of Soldiers Salute Polo Cup at the Nairobi Polo Club in Jamhuri on Sunday.
The winners edged Mombasa Island Cargo Terminal (MICT) 6-5 in a nervy final to retain the trophy.
This was the second diadem Samurai managed to win in a weeks time, they edged Royal Salute 5-4 to reclaim Maria Bencivenga Cup last weekend.
The final pitting Raphael Nzomo led Samurai against Phillip Arunga’s MICT was cutthroat. Both sides put their offensive and defensive skills to test in the scorching overhead Jamhuri sun.
Samurai started the contest with a goal advantage. They were put ahead in the first minute of the opening chukka by Nzomo’s son, Jadini, who scored a penalty to give his side a 2-0 lead.
MICT replied in the fourth minute through hard-hitting Anthony Wahome who reduced the gap to 2-1 after he struck following a melee on Samurai goal-mouth.
Jadini scored a second penalty a minute later to take Samurai’s lead to 3-1. MICT were awarded a penalty shot in the 10th minute which was painfully missed by Natasha Tisminiesky who is fresh from playing international polo in Argentina.
MICT were punished two minutes later when Jadini slotted in a third penalty to bag a hat-trick as the chukka ended 4-1 to their favour.
The second chukka proved strongest for both sides. Nzomo saved his side with impressive backhand shots even though they were well contained by the opponents.
Samurai conceded a penalty in the middle of the period which was successfully slotted in by Arungah.The goal narrowed Samurai’s lead to 4-2.
Nzomo’s daughter, Hiromi, scored on resumption for the third quarter following a melee on MICT backyard to stretch Samurai’s lead to 5-2.
The gap was narrowed to 5-3 by Tisminiesky who scored a similar goal for the opponents a minute later.
Speedy Taru Mwamtu excruciatingly missed a penalty for MICT four minutes later as the chukka ended 5-3 to Samurai’s favour.
Jadini converted a penalty to score his fourth goal at the start of the fourth and final chukka to give Samurai a 6-3 lead.
Determined MICT followed with subsequent attacks which bore fruits. Wahome scored a field goal from the left flank to reduce the gap to 6-4.
Tisminiesky tapped in a loose ball to further narrow the gap to 6-5 after she dribbled past the defence from the midfield.
With the contest getting nervy, all eyes were on Arungah after MICT were awarded a last-minute penalty.
Sadly, the Nairobi Polo Club captain’s shot missed the target by a whisker, gifting Samurai a back to back victory in the tournament and a second trophy in a week.
“I want to thank my father for supporting me to play polo, the umpires were fair enough and our opponents were worthy,” said Jadini who was named Most Valuable Player.
Long serving British Army Major, Jamie Hayward, said the tournament he launched in 2016 is meant to thank Nairobi Polo Club and inspire the club to continue to play more competitive polo.
“I came to Kenya in 2006. It’s been over a decade service full of fun, polo and camaraderie,” said Hayward who will be retiring from the army in April.
“We are glad to be champions twice in a row. This is a precious trophy. It brings out the true spirit of competition at the Nairobi Polo Club,” Nzomo said
Samurai 6 MICT 5
Wooden Spoon-R. J Rojo
Soldiers Salute Cup past winners