| Fadhil Yunus |
BRUNEI will be contesting in the grand final of the Golden Jubilee Polo Tournament, held in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee Celebration of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Accession to the Throne, for the right to win the Golden Jubilee Cup after powering to a 7-4 win over Selangor at the Royal Brunei Polo and Riding Club in Jerudong yesterday.
Brunei, spearheaded by the royal duo of His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen and Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah, overcame a 4-2 deficit at the start of the third chukka to finish with a strong and professional performance.
The win also set up an exciting all-Brunei affair in the Golden Jubilee Cup after Brunei 2, spearheaded by Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Abdul Qawi and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Bahar, completed a 7-4 win over Philippines in the first match.
Leading the onslaught was the excellent Lucas Fernandez who lifted his team in the final two chukkas and ensured that they will be competing for the championship.
The Malaysian visitors have momentarily led 2-1 and after a lofty drive forward into the 40-yard coupled with a penalty Brunei’s shot was good and levelled proceedings.
Selangor hit back with a composed finish and with the players barely warming up at the start of the third quarter Brunei took another blow as their opponents, aiming to recover from the Philippines defeat, built a two-goal cushion.
But, the hosts hit right back as Lucas turned on the style with a series of excellent plays on the field starting with cutting the lead to a single goal.
The polo classic was packed with action with Tawil picking the ball up before Amran Selamat backing the ball and Saladin Mazlan riding on the inside to move the ball forward.
The polo star rode forward with plenty of pace whilst smacking the ball towards goal but could not strike the ball further enabling Amran to clear the ball away into a friendly zone.
As Lucas sought to find an opening, the umpire blew the whistle for a penalty in favour of Brunei and as the Malaysians implemented a defensive policy, the Brunei marquee player steered the ball home to draw level.
But, the drama did not end there as after Lucas broke play, Selangor took the initiative to break the rhythm.
Selangor tried to get in front with the last action of the chukka as Saladin stroke the ball forward and Amran gave chase as they closed in to regain a slender lead.
But Lucas who on the offensive looked a handful, came back with solid defending and drove the ball forward as time expired to signal the end of the third chukka.
Brunei asserted their dominance in the fourth chukka with Lucas seemingly in unstoppable form. But the hosts had to weather the storm as Amran stroke the ball forward which did not gather enough steam allowing His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen to collect the ball.
Brunei raced to a 5-4 lead in the fourth quarter with 3:32 of the clock to go and Lucas picked the ball up before His Royal Highness shot just wide off the sticks.
Restarting the match, Saladin brought the ball from the backline as Dato Mohd sent the ball forward but his team-mate could not quite reach it as Lucas picked the ball up.
Lucas presented Brunei a 6-4 lead with 1:55 of the clock remaining and with 35 seconds to go the polo ace sealed victory with an under-the-leg shot.
Brunei’s progress ensured that the coveted Golden Jubilee Cup will be in possession of the home team after Brunei 2 made it two out of two.
Brunei and Brunei 2 amassed an unbeaten record in the preliminary rounds with both teams sitting at the top of the group with an identical goal differential of positive three.
Philippines and Selangor will be contesting the 40th Anniversary Trophy with the latter holding the upper hand at least psychologically after beating them 9-3 in the preliminary rounds.
Both the 40th Anniversary Trophy and the Golden Jubilee Cup finals will be held tomorrow.