The resurgence of Royal Pahang Polo Club took them to the top of Thailand, winning the Thai Polo Open on Saturday 20th January 2018, at that Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in Pattaya, Thailand. Prince Amir and Prince Muhammad led the Royal Pahang team to an historic 6 – 4 ½ win over Brian Xu’s Axus polo team.
Tomas Gandara, Royal Pahang’s 5 goal pro, won the award for the Most Valuable Player, for his outstanding play throughout the tournament. Gandara combined really effectively with Tomasito Fernandez Llorente, who had been recently raised to 7 goals by the Argentine Polo Association. Together the Argentine pair wreaked havoc on the other teams.
Both Royal Pahang’s Princes played very well, and with their improved horsepower, Royal Pahang are well and truly back in the game. It was great to see a young Royal Pahang team rock and rolling through their games, having fun and playing great polo.
Axus were always on the back foot as Royal Pahang used all four players in a quick passing game. Prince Muhammad saved his best game for the final. His all action game was impossible to ignore, and Axus had to commit resources to defend against his attack.
Prince Amir played an excellent game in support, as Royal Pahang thrust forward with relentless pressure.
They were goal line incidents aplenty in a frenetic first half that saw Axus have their fair share of chances. But it was Royal Pahang who got the conversions into goals, while performing repeated goal line heroics.
Royal Pahang sped away to a 6 – 1 ½ lead by the third chukka. Inevitably Royal Pahang gave away goals as they changed strategy to slow down play to try to keep possession of the ball with such a good lead. Axus battled back with three goals in final chukka chukka and a half, but it was not enough to trouble Royal Pahang, who held on comfortably to win.
It was Royal Pahang’s first win in the Thai Polo Open in thirteen attempts.
In the subsidiary final, Dato’ Mohamed Moiz’s La Famila finally clicked in all departments, to comprehensively defeat Fast Fish, also a Chinese-led team by patron Windson Rao. Fast Fish was a very dangerous team as they had the explosive big hitting talent of Miguel Diaz. With Nicolas Pieroni and Rodrigo Bauzada playing a solid marking games, Fast Fish were an exciting team to watch, especially when Diaz got control of the ball.
La Familia had eked out a 6 – 4 win when they played Fast Fish in a Zone 2 qualifying match.
This time, La Familia stretched them from the outset, playing a very good four-man game. Dato’ Mohamed Moiz was a constant menace at No. 1, breaking away time and again, and scoring two superb goals.
Agustin Andrada showed what a consummate player he is, scoring the best goals of the match. Malaysia’s SEA Games Polo Captain Shaik Reismann had another solid game for La Familia in midfield. With Gines Bargallo showing Miguel Diaz what big hitting really is, they routed Fast Fish. La Familia ran the score up to 9 – 2 in the third chukka, before easing up.
While they did not make the final, it was a good outing for La Familia, and finishing ahead of Thai Polo in the tournament stands them in good stead for the rest of the RMPA International League. The team will be changed for the Malaysian legs as Agustin Andrada will revert to La Sarita where he has been a player and stable manager for the last three seasons.
The surprises were that 2016 winners 22BR and perennial favourites Thai Polo failed to qualify for the semi-finals and were left to contest the wooden spoon.
The result of the 2018 Thai Polo Open was a long time coming for Royal Pahang. Thai Polo has been dominant in this series, but for the first time found themselves spectators of the final. To finish in fifth place was not a result many would have predicted for the Thai Polo team, who have been champions of the RMPA International League for four consecutive years.
It showed the depth of field in the Thai Polo Open. No qualifying game was won by more than two goals, and Zone 2 had to be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
The success of Axus in making the final of Thai Polo Open comes after five years of their participation. Chinese patron Brian Xu has built a solid operation of players, trainers and horses, since his first foray in the Thai Polo Open in 2012. That Axus may expand their operation to include the three Malaysian legs of the RMPA International League in 2018 is an exciting possibility for Malaysian polo.