The Cawnpore Cup, minted in 1901 and brought to Malta by Lord Louis Mountbatten, is the trophy that tops the list at the Malta Polo Club. All the players in the club would admit that this is the trophy that they would most like to win. Club president Julian Mamo has won the cup on several occasions, both as a team player and in recent years as a captain. Leading by example, his team is always difficult to beat.
Another player who had ties with the Cawnpore Cup was Salvo Darmanin who passed away in 2003, leaving behind a legacy that was unique in Malta. The only professional player in Malta, Salvo had won the prestigious Cawnpore Cup on many occasions during his career, a record yet to be beaten, as both team member and team captain. Son Mark had also won the cup as a team member, but this year he would captain a team to victory for the first time.
The 'Warriors' team, captained by Julian Mamo were the favourites on the day, but were shell shocked in the first chukka when Mark's 'Wildcats' team exploded onto the field with three goals in as many minutes. The first goal was scored by the captain himself when Ivan Cammilleri caught the ball from the first throw in and sped down the field towards the Warriors goal. Pushed out by Julian Mamo, he was forced to play the ball wide. Julian then cleared the ball towards the boards, but Matthew Borg was there to pick up the ball and play a neat square pass to his captain, who, under pressure, played a 90* cut shot through the goal posts.
The second throw in followed a similar aspect to the first, with the ball being taken up the field and Matthew Borg scoring for the Wild Cats. A minute later, and the Warriors were a third goal down, scored by Mark Darmanin, any plans that they may have had blown away with the wind, as they scrambled to defend against a team that linked together well from the start. It was towards the end of the chukka that Karl Galea, playing in the Warriors number 4 shirt, took matters into his own hands and scored two goals, the second of which went through the goal posts 30 seconds before the bell.
The second chukka saw the Warriors rally, with a third goal by Karl Galea, who had the pace to match the fast moving Wildcats, but he was unable to make any further breakthrough. Chris Delia and Patrick Filletti playing at 1 and 2 for the Warriors having a frustrating day, with horses seeming to be heavy footed, compared to the lightening speed of the Wildcats' mounts. Captain Julian Mamo, so often the playmaker in his team, found himself having to play a more defensive role than usual. At times, he may have increasingly felt like a ball in a pinball machine, with the aggressive defending tactics of the Wildcats giving him no space to move the ball around as he wished.
The third chukka became a game of cat and mouse, with Karl Galea and Matthew Borg trading goals, but Mark Darmanin, taking a leaf out of his father's book, going on 'shark patrol' - blocking any attack by the Warriors and passing the ball forwards to his team members, linking especially well with Martin Arrigo, his number 3. Shortly before the end of the chukka he suddenly changed tactics, blocking an attack and then counter attacking on his own against play and scoring his third goal of the match.
The final chukka was incredibly exciting, with neither team giving quarter. The Warriors came out on their fastest horses and the spectators waited to see if Julian Mamo and Karl Galea would use their additional speed to break out from the tight marking of the Wildcats. Yet every Warriors attack was blunted as Mark Darmanin refused to give ground, and his team jumped on every pass that came out. Both teams had opportunities to score, but balls went wide on several occasions, due to the strong pressure provided by opposing players.
At the final bell, a great cheer rang out from the club house, celebrating a superb game that had been won by the Wildcats 51/2 to Warriors 4. At the presentation, Mark Darmanin asked team mate Ivan Camilleri to accept the trophy from Honorary President, Marquis Tony Buttigieg de Piro. Ivan had played for the Cawnpore Cup on 17 occasions, yet had never been on the winning side until this day.
WarriorsHandicapWildcatsHandicap 1.Chris Delia01.Matthew Borg1 2.Patrick Filletti 12.Ivan Cammilleri 0 3.Julian Mamo (capt.) 23.Martin Arrigo 1 Back Karl Galea 1Back Mark Darmanin (capt) 1