Sunday 25th October heralded the start of the season for the mighty mens seconds with a friendly away at Basingstoke. The game provided a chance to get some much needed match fitness in before the start of the season, as well as giving some polo fresh a taste of competitive action.
Despite the prospect of visiting Basingstoke being about as inspiring as a day at a paint museum, 10 volunteers were assembled to undertake the journey. Days of meticulous tactics planning were thrown into turmoil with the news that Tom Harrington-Vogt had been bottled outside Manzil’s the night before, and would therefore be unable to play. Unimpressed with this excuse, a replacement was drafted in and we set off, with 4 lucky boys getting a taste of unparalleled comfort offered by a ride in the beast machine AKA my car.
Because of the speed of aforementioned car (and possibly the fact that I’d got the match time wrong), we arrived at the pool with plenty of time to spare. Basingstoke proved as dull as feared, with the most exciting feature of the town being the eight thousand roundabouts you have to drive around to get anywhere. One was so good I decided to go around it twice. The early arrival allowed a chance to discuss gameplay, general tactics and rules, with 5 of the 7 polo freshers having never played a game before.
We had a brief warmup, then the game started. One of those pre-pubescent teenagers that used to get regularly dominated during our visits had this summer evidently decided was enough was enough, upped his steroid game and proceeded to win every swim off, also hitting in 3 goals in the first quarter. It soon became evident that Basingstoke had some big shots on them, some of their players having played against our firsts earlier in the week. As to be expected in an almost entirely new team, our defence was lacking practise and knowhow and we conceded 6 goals in the first quarter. Some nice play saw Conal knock in a goal on his injury comeback.
The second quarter proved more fruitful in an attacking sense. Paul Vidler knocked in a lovely placed left handed shot into the far corner and Conal added to his tally with a fantastic first time shot over the keeper. Basingstoke also maybe scored some goals or something.
The third quarter saw us tire, the summer having been very unkind to some of us (me), but Conal kept up his one goal a quarter average. Basingstoke scored some more goals. Lawrence did save a penalty too, which was nice.
The fourth quarter was our best by far. Basingstoke scored the first goal, which was almost immediately cancelled out by Mr. Consistency Conal. Our defending improved, leading us to pressurise the Basingstoke attack much more and more cohesively than we had previously, causing them to run a little short on ideas. Big shout out to Alex Taylor Rose, who at this point decided to score a goal on his first polo game with a very nicely taken shot from the right hand side of the goal, putting us 2-1 up. Unfortunately after this we completely ran out of steam and Basingstoke decided not to let us have our moment and scored 2 late goals. I took an embarrassing halfway line shot right at the end which caused more problems for NASA than it did for the opposition keeper.
Final score was Basingstoke 22 – 6 Southampton. I’m not too worried despite the scoreline, we will tighten up defensively through training, and there was enough in our attack to make me think we have a solid base to build on. Plus we’ve got Ed to come back still so there’s that.
A cheeky squad visit to Maccies followed. This improved the Basingstoke experience marginally. Lawrence laid down some smack about the beast machine so I raced him (within the legally defined speed limits set by our government) back to Southampton and beat him back to uni by a whole 6 seconds. Take that Thompson.
4 Conal Groves
1 Paul Vidler
1 Alex Taylor Rose
2 Alex Taylor Rose
1 Sam Hudson
1 Conal Groves
1 Paul Vidler