Hawke's Bay polo player Simon McDonald boasts the nickname "Crash" for obvious reasons.
The Wanstead A No 1 and two handicapper thrives on the physical side of the game. However, McDonald didn't have to get too physical as Wanstead A kept their final hopes alive with a thrilling 8-7 win against Taupiri in the elite Savile Cup section on day three of the New Zealand Open tournament at Elwood Park, Hastings yesterday.
As McDonald said: "Our passes found their targets today. We played better ... both individually and as a team compared with Tuesday."
McDonald, who has played for 20 years and represented the old Tuki Tuki club and Hawke's Bay club before linking up with Wanstead, was referring to Wanstead A's tournament opener, an 11-7 loss to Auckland A.
"We only played together as a team for the first time at our club's Barrett Dearden tournament last weekend ... that was our fourth game together today. But if we can play like that against Mystery Creek tomorrow [today], and win with other results going our way we could make the final."
Wanstead haven't won the country's most prestigious polo trophy, which was first played for in 1890, since 1984. The fact that tournament was played in Hastings could prove to be a lucky omen for McDonald, No 2 Aaron Vowles, No 3 David Miller and No 4 Lochie Hunter.
Hunter scored four goals in yesterday's win. Miller, a 2008 New Zealand World Cup teammate of his in Mexico, scored three and Vowles the other.
Wanstead's improved cohesion after Tuesday's display was evident early in the first chukka of a match played in wet and windy conditions. However, the quality of polo didn't reflect those conditions.
Taupiri's No 4, English import and six handicapper Tom Morley, scored first but Hunter scored the equaliser from the re-start. Morley put Taupiri ahead 2-1 early in the second chukka but Miller scored an equaliser before Hunter gave Wanstead a 3-2 lead.
Hunter gave his team a 4-2 lead early in the third chukka before five handicapper Ross Ainsley scored the first of his four goals for Taupiri. The score was 4-all after the third chukka and Wanstead led 8-4 after the fourth.
Taupiri deserve praise for their gutsy comeback in the final two chukkas. A cracker of a backhand goal from Morley had Taupiri trailing 8-6 towards the end of the sixth and an Ainsley bomb closed the gap to one.
Ainsley missed a last minute penalty which could have tied the game and ruined Wanstead's hopes of a repeat of those 1984 celebrations.
Other Savile Cup encounters saw Mystery Creek beat Auckland A 9-7, Waimai Piquet Hill beat Rangitikei A 11-9 and Mystery Creek Morningstar wallop Kihikihi A 12-4.
Hawke's Bay have a win and a loss from their two outings to date in the McKenzie Salver section. Yesterday the host club was convincingly beaten 6-1.5 by Auckland D.
The Poverty Bay C team, which was to play in the same section, withdrew from the tournament in the wake of John Kirkpatrick's death on Tuesday.
A brother of All Black legend Ian Kirkpatrick, Kirkpatrick, has an accident on his farm while loading hay for the Poverty Bay polo contingent to bring south for their horses.