2000 South Island Polo Classic Final


Yellow: Airport Pharmacy team (8)
Blue: Christchurch Casino (5)

Anticipation: Mark Harris, Drew Harris and Lach McKinnon
talk over tactics before the game.

Lach McKinnon takes his customary Classic Final tumble ... no harm done.

Players jostle for the ball.

Mark Harris out in front.

Lach McKinnon takes a punt, with captain Harris in support.

James Neary speeds away from his opponent.

Kenny Duncan is unchallenged as he shoots for goal.

PICTURES: © Neil Clarkson

STORY: © Robin Marshall

Polo final hard fought -- (Jan 24, 2000) Sunday's South Island Polo Classic was a hard-fought affair, with drama aplenty. The ultimate title was won by five-goaler Roddy Wood's Airport Pharmacy team, which included former 4-goaler John Falloon (0), English rider James Glasson (4), and Christchurch's Duncan Forbes (3).

The Wood team beat the team of his fellow Canterbury pro, Mark Harris (5), whose teams had won the previous classic final.

This year's final was the first to offer prizemoney, with a $2000 cash prize for the team that scored the most goals in each chukka.

Saturday's semi featured a drawn-out battle by underdogs Christchurch Casino, led by Harris. His 10-goal Casino team (including North Islander Kenny Duncan (5), Australian Lach McKinnon (1) and Englishman James Neary (-1)) beat the 12-goal Newstalk ZB lineup of Bryan Burrows, Garth McKenzie, Graeme Higginson, and Simon McDonald in a hard encounter.

Sunday's game was no less dramatic, with a two-hour delay to the start of the game, numerous delays as players -- and an umpire -- changed horses early in the chukkas, spills by riders, and the death of a pony. The pony who died was being taken off the field at the end of a chukka by rider James Glasson, when she suffered a fatal heart attack. She was owned by Wairarapa player John Falloon, who was visibly upset at the loss. Falloon himself suffered a severe neck injury during a game a year ago. He had returned to polo in 1997 after a 20-year absence while on the political scene.

Casino was the first team to win the chukka bonus; taking $4000 for its win in the second chukka after the opening bout ended scoreless. Tournament veteran and Canterbury pro Mark Harris had his usual standout game, showing flare under pressure and taking some dramatic, crowd-pleasing shots. Harris runs the Polo Down Under Polo School (www.polo.co.nz) at nearby Tuahiwi.

Casino player Lach McKinnon (1), who made a dramatic exit from last year's final in an ambulance, went close to making his first chukka of the day his last when he and his pony slipped over and made a graceful slide along the turf while attempting a goal. And soon after Harris was struck in the face by an Airport Pharmacy player, suffering a cut lip.

Unfortunately for the Casino team, Saturday's exertion told, and they failed to keep their lead over the better-ranked Pharmacy team, going down 8-5.