Central Districts claimed an international polo scalp in their senior team's first outing for almost 20 years on Saturday but it was an act of sportsmanship from the South Africans which had tongues wagging the most.
Four unanswered goals in the first chukka were the key to Central Districts 5-2 victory against the touring six-goal South African team at Elwood Park, Hastings. Central Districts were 3-0 up when No 2 and Wanstead club two-goaler Simon McDonald fell from his horse.
As McDonald's horse galloped away South Africa's No 4 Lionel Foster left the field of play until McDonald was back in the saddle. Although Foster's team were struggling at that point he declined the opportunity to capitalise on an unfair advantage.
"It was great to see ... it's the first time I've seen it in 20 years of polo," CD professional and Hawke's Bay three-goaler Aaron Vowles, the star of the game, said afterwards.
"It's the first time I had seen it in 35 years of playing," CD No 1 and Hawke's Bay one goaler George Wood said.
"Today's match was a good, clean, hard game and it's not always like that. We're here to foster the relationship between South Africa polo and the Central Districts region ... displaying good sportsmanship is a big part of that," South Africa No 2 and one goaler Andrew Gilson said.
Gilson agreed Vowles was outstanding.
"Aaron controlled the game. After the first chukka we came out with the aim of shutting him down in the second, third and fourth chukkas and to a certain extent we achieved that."
The South Africans appeared to be a little weary from some outstanding hospitality during their 12-day tour but Gilson refused to use that as an excuse for the loss.
"We've had a fantastic time. We've learned a lot about the New Zealand people and their culture and we've seen how the farming and business communities function. Hopefully we can reciprocate in the near future," Gilson added.
Considering the Central Districts team of Wood, McDonald, Vowles and No 4 Wanstead one-goaler John Reisima had not played together before they were superb against the South Africans, who were playing their fourth match together in their final outing on tour.
"Everything went like clockwork. I told you before the game we had to get stuck into them early to help compensate for our lack of game time together and we managed to do that," Wood said.
His team succeeded with five of their six attempts at goal while the tourists converted two of their seven attempts. Vowles, who impressed with his accurate distribution, and McDonald scored a goal each during the first chukka while Wood scored two.
McDonald scored the only goal in the second chukka to give the hosts a 5-0 lead at halftime. Although they struggled on attack in the third and fourth chukkas the South Africans' defensive work was admirable.
No 1 Brett Chubb scored a field goal for South Africa in the third chukka and Foster converted a 60-yard (55m) penalty attempt in the fourth.
Vowles was thrilled to be playing in Saturday's fixture. He missed the previous matches against South Africa because he was playing in tournaments in Auckland.
His next outing will be an urban series in Wellington which is part of the national body's quest to promote the sport in towns.
McDonald pointed out it was the first time in at least 18 years the Central Districts senior team had played - the last time was when prominent Hawke's Bay horse racing trainer John Bary was playing the sport.
"Hopefully CD can have more regular outings in the future," McDonald added before he and Vowles had to go and buy a dozen beers each for the tourists after their respective falls. Foster also fell but because the horse he was riding at the time touched the ground he was told by his hosts he didn't have to shout. Quality sportsmanship from both teams was definitely the winner on the day.