Aucklander Scott Jolly was rewarded for his regular lengthy trips to play polo for Hawke's Bay when the national Savile Cup tournament began in Hastings yesterday.
The stock agent and farmer, who has played for the Bay for three years, scored two goals as Hawke's Bay E opened their McKenzie Salver Cup campaign with a 4-2 victory against another Hastings-based club Birchleigh on the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds oval.
"It was a good team effort in what was a hard start to our campaign. Birchleigh fought well," No 3 player Jolly, who has a -1 handicap, explained.
"We're going to have to improve our penalty attempts if we're going to achieve our aim of a place in Sunday's final. We missed too many."
His team's other goals were scored by No 1 Estee Browne with a superb backhand stroke and professional four goaler Jonny Coddington who had the No 4 role.
"Yes were were lucky Hawke's Bay E missed a few penalties as that kept up in the game," Birchleigh No 2 Richard Kettle said.
His No 3 Izzy Kelsey and her brother Angus Kelsey scored Birchleigh's goals. The score was 1-all after the first chukka, Hawke's Bay E led 3-2 at halftime, the third chukka was scoreless and Hawke's Bay E scored another goal during the final period.
"Jonny [Coddington] controlled play well for the Bay team. He still plays professionally in the United Kingdom and it showed. If we win our next two games we can make the final and we've got more easier games to come," Kettle added.
Jolly pointed out several of the players from the host club teams are also involved in activities off the field. He has the head commentator role while others are involved in time keeping, paddocking and hosting.
"We all like to chipin and that's what I enjoy about playing for a good family club like Hawke's Bay."
It was a memorable first day for the host club. Hawke's Bay D with English professional Ollie Jones in the No 4 role and South African import LeRey Young in the No 3 berth beat Rangitikei C 8-3. Hawke's Bay B opened their Riddiford Levin Cup camapign with a 5-3 win against Kihi Kihi B.
The tournament's head time keeper Bill Glazebrook, a 0 goaler, has the No 3 role for Hawke's Bay B.
It was a tough start for Porangahau-based Wanstead C in the McKenzie Salver section as they lost 6-1.5 to Rangitikei B. Former Junior All Black Robbie Hunter, 68, has the No 4 role for Wanstead C while the promising Wirihana Kururangi has the No 3 berth.
Yesterday's sole Savile Cup encounter, between Auckland and Rangitikei, was being played after Hawke's Bay Today's deadline for this issue. Defending champions Auckland, who are playing without any of last year's title-winning team players and Rangitikei, are among five teams battling for one of the country's oldest sporting trophies.
It was first presented in 1890. Christchurch, Ashmole from Clevedon and Morningstar from Auckland are the others.
Today's only Savile Cup encounter will see Christchurch take on Rangitikei from 3pm on the No 1 ground at Elwood Park. English professional and seven goaler James Harper will have the No 4 berth for Christchurch.
Rangitikei will be spearheaded by five goaler Angus McKelvie in the No 4 role. McKelvie played in four consecutive Dewar Cup winning sides at the Hawke's Bay Open tournament from 2015 to 2018 and is always a huge drawcard when he plays in the Bay.
Ashmole, who begin their campaign tomorrow, have talented Argentinian six goaler Paco O'Dwyer in the No 3 spot.