Polo: Land Rover beats Sprung Construction in close match

Linda Lafferty
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colo. – In a brilliant, fast-paced final match, Land Rover of Aspen edged Sprung Construction on a late goal by Geneve Kashnig to win the Rocky Mountain Polo Championship at Stout Ranch on Sunday.

Although Kashnig scored the winning goal, it was two professionals – Land Rover’s Christian Moon and Sprung Construction’s Bob Kohler – who dominated the play in the finals of the two-day tournament, galloping down the field neck-and-neck for most of the match.

Kohler took control of the ball in the first minute of play, intercepting a shot from Moon, turning the ball around with great finesse and smacking it down the field. His racing horse caught up with his shot and he maneuvered the ball around Land Rover players and into the goal for the first goal of the day.

Later in the first chukkar, Kohler scored again after intercepting Moon’s knock-in, hitting a powerful backshot toward goal. He then turned sharply and again followed his own shot into goal.

In the second chukkar, Moon’s Land Rover team retaliated, scoring in the first minute of play on a penalty shot by Moon from 30 yards. Just minutes later, Moon carried the ball down the field for a another goal – fighting neck and neck with Kohler all the way to tie the score at 2-all.

Still in the second chukkar, Kohler’s teammate Noah Sprung picked up a pass and scored to put Sprung Construction ahead 3-2.

Kohler then pressed the advantage, passing the ball up to Kent Barker of Avon, who socked ball down the field; but again it was Kohler who followed up the play and put the ball through the uprights for one more goal. At the end of the second of the four chukkars, it was 4-2 Sprung Construction.

In the third chukkar, Moon scored again on a penalty shot from the 60 yard line, drilling the ball through the uprights, under four Sprung Construction players’ ponies trying to block the goal mouth. At the end of the third period, Sprung Construction led 4-3.

For the fourth and final chukkar, Alexis Barker from Austin, Texas, came in to substitute for Sprung Construction’s Kendra Gross. Barker has a higher handicap rating than Gross and so, under polo’s complex handicap rules, Sprung Construction’s score was reduced by one goal to compensate.

As a result, the score on handicap was set at 3-3 going into the final period.

In the final chukkar, both teams knew they were tied for the championship, and the horse races down the field made the dust fly.

Barker – the new Sprung Construction player – showed her stuff by popping a shot up to her teammate Kohler. Moon immediately attacked Kohler, hooking his mallet and fighting for the ball. Kohler got a penalty shot from the spot, and knocked in a goal to put Sprung Construction ahead 4-3.

In the next play, Moon hooked Kohler’s mallet, the crack of colliding mallets carrying all the way to the grandstands. Moon managed to steal the ball away and raced for goal, scoring again, to tie the score at 4-4.

But then Kashnig chipped in the final and decisive goal, picking up a pass from Moon giving the Rocky Mountain Championship to Land Rover, 5-4, after a well-matched game.

In Sunday morning’s consolation game, Roaring Fork thumped the Bill Barrett team 10-1. Roaring Fork had tied Sprung Construction 5-5 in Saturday’s opening action, but the victory went to Sprung on a coin toss.