NZ open polo: Comeback king knows score

By Shane Hurndell

Hawke's Bay polo player David Miller is a master when it comes to comebacks.

After his Wanstead A team's 11-7 loss to Auckland A in a first round Savile Cup encounter at the New Zealand Open tournament in Hastings last night Miller knows exactly what is required if he is to get his hands on the sport's most prestigious trophy in this country after Sunday's final at Elwood Park.

"Get our formations right and finish our scoring opportunities," Miller replied when quizzed on the necessary ingredients for a Wanstead A comeback this week.

"We got our formations right towards the end of tonight's game ... we just didn't capitalise on all our opportunities."

Indeed, Wanstead A didn't. Three consecutive misses in the fifth chukka, when Wanstead A trailed an outfit which included veteran Cody Forsyth, a top Kiwi professional for 30 years, 10-4 proved costly.

Porangahau's Miller, 30, who has played with members of Britain's royal family - Prince Charles before he retired from playing and his sons Princes William and Harry - earned international respect with one of his comebacks when playing for New Zealand at the 2008 World Cup in Mexico.

Miller got hit on the nose by a polo ball and the injury required stitching. He allowed the team manager at the time, who happened to be a dentist not a doctor, to stitch him up and he got back on his horse and resumed playing as soon as the job was complete.

"Hopefully we won't need any comebacks this week as we will always be in the lead. But you're right ... if we do it's that sort of commitment we will need," Miller, who has played polo for 15 years, said.

"Sunday's final is our goal. After tonight's loss we will need a bit of luck in terms of other goals going our way and if we don't make it winning the subsidiary final will be the next goal," he added.

Busy No 1 James Worker and No 2 Jasper White, who has strong family connections in Central Hawke's Bay, both scored four goals for Auckland A, who led 2-0 after the first chukka, 4-1 after the second, 6-3 after the third, 9-4 after the fourth and 10-5 after the fifth.

Forsyth, who had the No 3 role scored one goal and No 4 Sam Hopkinson two. Wanstead A's workaholic No 4 Lochie Hunter scored four goals, Miller two and No 2 Aaron Vowles one for Wanstead A.

Yesterday's other Savile Cup encounter saw Mystery Creek pip Taupiri 7-6. The first chukka in this game took 22 minutes.

Former Hastings Rugby and Sports premier rugby player Jared Thompson and English import Ollie Jones were prominent as host club Hawke's Bay opened their McKenzie Salver campaign with a 14-3 drubbing of Wanstead E. Thompson's form suggested his one handicap may be a little generous.

Wanstead B opened their Wilson Cup campaign with an entertaining 8-7 win over Kihikihi B. Wanstead C was the other Hawke's Bay team to register a victory when opening their Riddiford Levin section with a 6-4 win against Auckland C.

Hawke's Bay Polo Club stalwart and former Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby captain and coach Richard Hunt will manage the New Zealand team at their Snow Polo event which begins in China next week. The Kiwi team which will leave on Tuesday is Mystery Creek professional John Paul Clarkin, Rangitikei A's Glenn Sherriff, Taupiri's Kit Brooks and Kihikihi A's James Wood.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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