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POLO ACES IN THE SADDLE FOR WIN; POLO.

WALES clinched an important, but deserved, sudden-death victory against the Commonwealth in their inaugural visit to the All England Polo Club at Hickstead.

The Arena Polo 12 goal challenge match, sponsored by Welsh gold company Clogau, was another epic nail-biting encounter which the Wales team and supporters have become very much accustomed to in their last few matches.

Wales fielded a solid team led by Ricky Cooper, accompanied by Roddy Matthews and new team member, former England international star Pete Webb, who qualifies for the team through a Welsh grandparent.

Their opponents, a tough Commonwealth team consisting of Australia's Jonathan Munro Ford, Howard Smith of Scotland and Dean Lines of England, are no strangers to winners' medals with Ford and Smith having combined last season to win nine major polo tournaments.

On paper at least, the teams were evenly matched, and a good crowd were treated to 35 goals and some excellent polo.

Wales took the game to the Commonwealth from the off with Webb bagging a hat-trick to make the score 5-2 to Wales at the end of the first chukka.

After the break, it was Cooper who was the star, sniping at the Commonwealth goalmouth to bag two further goals in quick succession to make it 8-4 to Wales at the interval.

By now, the bookmakers would have shortened the odds on Webb scoring at the start of the third chukka and he didn't disappoint, his inspired play making it 15-9 to Wales.

With a six-goal lead at the start of the final chukka, Wales started to lose composure after an initial exchange of goals between Smith and Matthews.

Lines and Smith took control of the game, and, with four seconds to go, Smith tied the match to force a sudden-death chukka.

Both sides had their chances to win until Webb managed to quickly counter-attack and dribble through a melee and tuck the ball away to win the game 18-17.

A relieved Wales captain Cooper said: "That was an amazing comeback by their team, but we regained our composure when it mattered most and our determination carried us through.

"I'm very proud of the guys, they've done the country proud and we've got that all-important first victory under our belt for 2013."

CAPTION(S):

Welsh team member Roddy Matthews battles for possession at Hickstead PICTURE: Tony Ramirez
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 6, 2013
Words:389
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