Chivas Regal Scotland thundered to its second win in a row at the World Elephant Polo Championship this week at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge at the Royal Chitwan National Park. The victors clinched the Tiger Tops WEPA Trophy with a 7-6 win over archrivals the National Parks team of Nepal.
Eight teams and players from 11 countries paid $ 12,000 each to take part in the mammoth sporting event, which included competition for the world amateur title, taken by a team from Ireland. Another event, the All Nepal Challenge, featured teams made up solely of mahouts (elephant handlers) who both drive their mount and play. Proceeds from all the competitions go to local charities.
The final was opened by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, which paraded the players on to the field before the guests of honour, British Ambassador Keith Bloomfield and French Ambassador Michel Jolivet.
When play began, Chivas Regal Scotland leapt to an aggressive start by scoring the first goal in just 18 seconds seizing the initiative. However great play from both sides and dogged defending from Scotland goalie Geoffrey Dobbs left the teams level at the interval.
The second half demonstrated again how elephant polo is one of the most xciting, colourful and certainly the biggest, games in the world. National Parks quickly levelled the score and then notched another goal to make it 5-4. Scotland levelled the scores at 5-5 with just two minutes on the clock. Its star player-manager Peter Prentice, who was playing on the lead elephant, fought hard in the centre of the field but couldn't break free from the expert stickmanship of the Nepal team, many of whose players work with elephants for their day jobs. But with time slipping away, Prentice changed tactics and opted for a long shot from 30 yards scoring a spectacular and crucial goal to take the lead 6-5. Scotland then held on for a one-goal victory.
The victory makes it three tournaments in a row for the Scotland team following victories in the 2004 World Championship and the King's Cup in Thailand this September.
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Four elephants comprise a polo team. This year they were provided by the Royal Chitwan National Park. The pachyderms chase a bamboo ball around a pitch some 120m long by 70m wide. Two riders sit atop each elephant, the first a mahout, or elephant handler, who steers by prodding the animal behind the ears, and the second the player, who is tied on with ropes and wields a specially built mallet up to 2.5m long. The games consists of two 10-minute chukkas or halves, with a 15-minute interval. At halftime the teams swap elephants, thereby eliminating any possible advantage. No loitering in front of goal is allowed. The use of trunks is also strictly prohibited, although elephants are permitted to kick the ball.