Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Taittinger defeated Land Rover 7-4 to win the Scotia Private Client Group Jamaica Open polo final at the Kingston Polo Club, Caymanas Estates, on Sunday, as new champions were crowned for this the fourth staging of the tournament.
Taittinger, sponsored by Caribbean Producers Limited, came from two goals down in the early stages to blow away their opponents in the third of the four chukkas.
This was due to two goals each from the MVP of the final Mark Wates, Marc Melville and the visiting Argentinian professional Tomas Gandara, who was the highest-ranked player in the tournament by virtue of a six-goal handicap. Young Hamish Wates chipped in with the seventh goal.
In the early stages, things did not look too good for Taittinger, this after the Argentinian professional Jose Laritirigoyen opened the scoring for the ATL Automotive-sponsored Land Rover after two minutes, then John G. Byles increased it early in the second.
Taittinger, however, came into their own with three quick goals in the second chukka to lead 3-2 at half-time. They tightened the screws with four unanswered goals in the third chukka for a 7-3 lead. And despite the efforts of Laritirigoyen, Byles, Jordon Samuda and James Robertson (captain) to get back on terms, Land Rover only managed a solitary goal from Laritirgoyen in the final chukka, having been outplayed by the new champions.
Best playing pony
Bump, owned by Melville and groomed by Davian Reid, was adjudged the best playing pony, while Scotia's president and CEO, Bruce Bowen, threw out the first ball to signal the start of the final.
Winning captain Mark Wates, who produced two long solo runs in the third chukka to score earning him the MVP award, said he was not perturbed when his team trailed in the early stages.
"We changed the line-up in the second chukka, moving myself to full back and allowing Tomas to take over the attacking role. This had the desired effect, and I am happy that we won so impressively seeing I was on the losing team last year," he explained.
Melville said, "Playing alongside Mark and his nephew Hamish Wates on a winning team meant a lot to me, as our grandfathers and our fathers played together over the decades."
Losing captain, Member of Parliament James Robertson, was blunt in his response: "We did well in the first chukka, messed up in two and when you get it wrong in a shortened version (four instead of six chukkas), it is always going to be difficult to come back."
Meanwhile, in the semi-finals on Saturday, Taittinger defeated outgoing champions Scotia Bank Private Client Group 5-3 to advance, thanks to three goals from Gandara and two from Melville. And in the second semi-final, Land Rover clipped Borgne Restautant 8-7 in overtime with Laritirigoyen scoring six goals. The visiting English professional Jamie LeHardy flicked in three for Borgne and Craig Russell, two.
In the consolation final on Sunday, Scotia Private Client crushed Borgne 6-1 with two goals each from Jorge Donovan and Jason Wates, and one each from Paul Lalor and Mitta Rousseau.
The tournament attracted a large crowd, including American Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater.
Full Caption: Members of the Taittinger team, who won the fourth annual Scotia Private Client Group Jamaica Open polo tournament, hold the championship trophy aloft after their 7-4 win over Land Rover in the final at the Kingston Polo Club, Caymanas Estates, on Sunday. They are (from left) Mark Wates (captain), the Argentinian professional Tomas Gandara, Scotia Investments CEO Lissant Mitchell, Hamish Wates and Marc Melville. - Photos by Rudolph Brown/Gleaner Photographer