by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe

A full day of polo featured five 26-goal games in the 2013 USPA Piaget Gold Cup at the International Polo Club in Wellington Thursday. Beginning with two morning games, the highest level of polo on the continent took center stage as a total of ten teams fought their way to a position in the tournament finals at 3pm on Sunday afternoon, March 24.

Piaget became the first casualty of the day, falling to Orchard Hill, 12-7, and remaining winless in the tournament at 0-2. Orchard Hill (1-1) jumped out to an early start on a goal from Matias MacDonough in the opening nineteen seconds of the first chukker. Less than a minute later, 10-goaler Pablo MacDonough (brother of Matias) scored his first goal of the game for t 2-0 advantage. Midway through the period Piaget got on the scoreboard with a penalty conversion from their own 10-goaler, Sapo Caset. The chukker ended with Orchard Hill on top of a 2-1 score. Orchard hill unloaded on Piaget in second chukker action, outscoring their opponent 4-0 and ending the chukker with a five goal, 6-1 edge. Matias MacDonough opened the scoring with a penalty conversion followed by a 100 yard shot for a goal from Pablo MacDonough. The MacDonough brothers ended the period with single goals to put Orchard Hill in front, 6-1.

Miguel Astrada, Piaget’s other 10-goal player, scored the first goal of the third, but that was all of the offense Piaget could muster for the balance of the chukker. Two more penalty goals from Matias MacDonough were followed by Pablo MacDonough’s fourth goal of the day. When the two fields rode off the field at the end of the first half, Orchard Hill was in control of a 9-2 game. Defenses tightened in the fourth with the teams exchanging single goals from the field. Brazilian 8-goaler Rodrigo Andrade extended the Orchard Hill lead to eight goals with his first score of the game, 10-2. Nacho Badiola scored the final goal of the chukker at 3:56, and the period ended with Orchard Hill in possession of a commanding 10-3 lead.

A pair of fifth chukker goals from Miguel Astrada (one on a 40-yard penalty shot) were answered by a single goal from the field from Orchard Hill team captain Steve Van Andel. With one chukker left to play, Orchard Hill was still comfortably ahead, 11-5. Andrade’s second goal of the game had Orchard Hill in front, 12-5, and in complete control of the game. A pair of goals from Astrada ended the match with Orchard Hill registering a 12-7 victory.

Matias MacDonough led the Orchard Hill team with five goals. Pablo MacDonough scored four times with Andrade adding two goals and Van Andel scoring once for the win. Astrada was credited with five goals for Piaget. Caset and Badiola each scored a single goal in the loss.

ALEGRIA 11, COCA-COLA 10 OT
Alegria evened its record at 1-1 with an 11-10 overtime win at the expense of winless Coca-Cola, 0-3 in Thursday morning’s second USPA Piaget Gold cup match. Opening goals from Argentine 9-goalers Hilario Ulloa and Mariano Aguerre were complimented by shutout defense from the Alegria lineup as they took a first chukker 2-0 lead. Coca-Cola responded with four unanswered goals over the next two chukkers to move ahead, 4-3 at the end of the first half. Coca-Cola team captain Gillian Johnston scored the team’s first goal of the match in the second chukker with Julio Arellano tying it up at 2-2 to end the period. Third chukker action Arellano adding two more unanswered goals to the Coca-Cola total with Alegria struggling to mount an effective attack. A confident Coca-Cola team rode off the field after the third chukker with a 4-2 lead.

A regrouped Alegria team returned to the field in the fourth period, putting up four goals while limiting the Coca-Cola offense to a single goal from the field from Sebastian Merlos. Alegria tallied three goals from Facundo Obregon (two on penalty conversions) while team captain Julian Mannix scored on a penalty shot. With two chukkers left in regulation time, Alegria had retaken the lead, 6-5. Arellano tied up at 6-6 in the fifth on a penalty conversion, but watched Alegria score three consecutive goals (two from Ulloa and a single goal from Obregon) to extend its lead to 9-6.

Another penalty conversion from Arellano ended the chukker with Alegria on top, 9-7. Merlos cut the Alegria lead to a single goal, 9-8, with the opening goal of the sixth, but Alegria fought back with a goal from the field from Ulloa, 10-8. Consecutive goals from Arellano and Johnston and lights out defense for the duration of the chukker forced the deadlocked teams into sudden-death overtime. It was Ulloa’s fifth goal of the day that scored the decisive goal of the contest in an 11-10 Alegria victory.

Arellano led the field in scoring on the day with six goals. Johnston and Merlos each added a pair of goals. Ulloa led the Alegria attack with five goals. Obregon added four goals with Mannix and Aguerre each kicking in a goal for the win.

LECHUZA CARACAS 9, ERG 6
Lechuza Caracas remained undefeated in bracket play, 2-0, by scoring a 9-6 win over ERG (1-1) in Thursday’s noon USPA Piaget Gold Cup match. Polito Pieres converted a penalty shot for the first goal of the game followed by a goal from the field from 7-goaler Francisco Elizalde. ERG was held scoreless and trailed 2-0 after the first chukker of play. Consecutive goals from Elizalde and team captain Victor Vargas had Lechuza Caracas in front, 4-0, as ERG was unable to get on the scoreboard for the second consecutive chukker. Pieres (on a well-placed pass from Juan Martin Nero) and Agustin “Tincho” Merlos exchanged single goals in the third. Lechuza Caracas maintained their four goal lead, 5-1, to end the first half of the game.

The pace continued to quicken in the fourth, but scoring was at a premium. Merlos scored the only goal of the period, but Lechuza Caracas continued to hold all the cards in a 7-4 match. Three of the four goals scored in the final period of play came on penalty shots with Paco de Narvaez scoring the final goal of the game in the 9-6 Lechuza Caracas win. Pieres opened with a 60-yard penalty conversion, 8-4. Merlos responded with a penalty goal, cutting the lead back to three goals, 8-5. Pieres added a penalty goal with ERG’s Pack de Narvaez scoring the final goal of the game in the 9-6 Lechuza Caracas victory.

Five goals by Pieres set the pace for the day. Three goals from Elizalde and a goal from Vargas secured the win. ERG relied on four goals from Merlos and a pair of goals from di Narvaez, but came up short on the afternoon.

ZORZAL 14, MT. BRILLIANT 6
It’s always difficult for a first-year team to make an impact in high-goal polo, but Zorzal (1-1) did just that as they showcased the talent of its lineup in a 14-6 win over Mt. Brilliant in USPA Piaget Gold Cup action. Granted, Mt. Brilliant suffered their third consecutive loss (0-3), but had played impressively tough in the opening half of play against both Valiente (3-0) and Zacara (2-0) before losing in second half play. Such was not the case with Zorzal.

Mariano Gonzalez scored the first goal of the game followed by three goals from teammate Jason Crowder for the early 4-1 lead (the 25-goal Mt. Brilliant team received one goal by handicap). Nic Roldan finally got Mt. Brilliant on the scoreboard with a penalty conversion in the second chukker. Another goal from Crowder and a goal from team captain Fred Mannix had Zorzal ahead by four, 6-2. The third period was more of the same for Zorzal, with Mannix adding a pair of goals and Marianito Obregon scoring his first of the day. The Zorzal lead had grown to seven goals, 9-2, with one half left to play.

The two teams exchanged penalty goals in the fourth period, with Roldan converting for Mt. Brilliant while Mannix responded with a penalty goal for Zorzal. The Zorzal lead remained at seven goals, 10-3. Both defenses tightened in the fifth chukker, with Crowder’s penalty goal accounting for the only offense in the period. With one chukker left to play, Zorzal held a commanding 11-3 lead. Mannix opened the sixth chukker with a penalty conversion for a goal, 13-3, followed by a goal from the field from Crowder, 13-3. A pair of goals from the field from Mt. Brilliant’s Matias Magrini cut the lead back to eight goals, 13-5, but the writing was on the wall. Mannix and Santiago Chavanne exchanged the final goals of the match in a convincing 14-6 Zorzal victory.

Crowder and Mannix scored six goals apiece in the win. Gonzalez and Obregon added single goals. Roldan and Magrini scored two goals apiece for Mt. Brilliant. Chavanne added a goal and the team received one goal by handicap.

VALIENTE 10, AUDI 7
In the final USPA Piaget Gold cup match of the day Valiente remained undefeated, 3-0, while handing Audi, 2-1, its first loss of the tournament in a 10-7 match. The play was characterized by stop-and-go action that was occasionally punctuated by brilliant scoring urns and expert shots on goal.

Valiente wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard with 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso scoring once from the field in the opening 30 seconds of play followed by a 40-yard penalty conversion for a 2-0 advantage. Audi was held scoreless in the opening seven minutes of play. Audi turned the table son Valiente in the second period as it got a penalty goal from Nico Pieres and a nearside goal from the field from 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres (on a pass from brother Nico). At the end of the second chukker of play it was all even at 2-2.

Jeff Hall’s 40-yard penalty shot in the third put Audi on top, 3-2 less than two minutes into the period, but ensuing goals from Santi Torres (penalty conversion) and a goal from Cambiaso in the last two minutes of the chukker had Valiente leaving the field at the end of the first half with a narrow 4-3 edge. The Valiente attack continued into the second half. Audi fouls sent Torres to the line twice in the first half of the chukker where he scored on both penalty shots for goals. Torres added a third straight goal on a difficult nearside neck shot to put Valiente ahead, 7-3. Gonzalito Pieres kept Audi alive with a penalty goal in the final minute of the chukker, but they continued to trail, 7-4.

Fifth chukker play had Valiente running up the score on goals from 10-goaler Pelon Stirling and Torres (penalty conversion). Nico Pieres closed out the period with a penalty goal but Audi fell behind by four goals, 9-5. Audi appeared to make a move in the final chukker, but a goal from Hall was countered by a goal from Torres, 10-6. Gonzalito Pieres scored the final goal of the game with 1:02 left in the period. The final horn sounded with Valiente in charge of a 10-7 victory. Torres led the Valiente team with six goals (five on penalty shots). Cambiaso scored twice and Stirling added a goal in the win. Gonzalito Pieres led the Audi attack with three goals. Hall and Nico Pieres each scored a pair of goals in the loss.


The Teams:
Alegria (+26)
Julian Mannix (+2)
Hilario Ulloa (+9)
Mariano Aguerre (+9)
Facundo Obregon (+6)

Audi (+26)
Marc Ganzi (+1) / Juancito Bollini
Nico Pieres (+8)
Gonzalito Pieres (+10)
Jeff Hall (+7)

ERG (+26)
Scott Wood (0)
Tincho Merlos (+9)
Eduardo N Astrada (+9)
Paco de Narvaez (+8)

Coca-Cola (+26)
Gillian Johnston (+1)
Sugar Erskine (+7)
Sebastian Merlos (+9)
Julio Arellano (+9)

Lechuza Caracas (+26)
Victor Vargas (+1)
Polito Pieres (+8)
Juan Martin Nero (+10)
Francisco Elizalde (+7)

Mt Brilliant/ Faraway (+26 / +25)
Bo / Hutton Goodman (+1 / 0)
Santiago Chavanne (+9)
Nic Roldan (+8)
Matias Magrini (+8)

Orchard Hill (+26)
Steve van Andel (0)
Matias MacDonough (+8)
Pablo MacDonough (+10)
Rodrigo Andrade (+8)
Alternativ: Nic Roldan (+8)

Piaget (+25 / +26)
Melissa Ganzi (0)
Nacho Badiola (+6) / Alt Juan Bollini (+5)
Sapo Caset (+10)
Miguel Novillo Astrada (+10)

Valiente (+26)
Bob Jornayvaz (0)
Pelon Stirling (+10)
Adolfo Cambiaso (+10)
Santi Torres (+6)

Zacara (+26)
Facundo Pieres (+10)
Lyndon Lea (+1)
Magoo Laprida (+8)
Mike Azzaro (+7)

Zorzal (+26)
Fred Mannix (+6)
Jason Crowder (+6)
Marianito Obregon (+7)
Mariano Gonzalez (+7)

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