by U.K. Polo Correspondent Liz Higgins

An epic final of the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, with the world’s two leading players on opposing sides, saw Lyndon Lea’s Zacara beat Rashid Albwardy’s Dubai on Sunday 21st July after four weeks of enthralling matchplay in the British Open Polo Championship.

Alongside Zacara’s patron Lyndon Lea, who won the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup in 2011, was +10 goaler Facundo Pieres, with whom he has won both the US Open and the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2013. An impressive partnership has been forged between Facundo, who has won Most Valuable Player Awards in several of the world’s major tournaments in the past 12 months, and +8 goal Brazilian player Rodrigo Andrade, with talented young Englishman Matt Perry, +3 goals, completing the team.

Lynchpin of the Dubai team was the world’s number one player, +10 goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, joined for the 2013 season by Nico Pieres, younger brother of +10 goalers Gonzalo and Facundo Pieres, who has been playing way beyond his +7 goal English handicap, and impressive young Australian Alec White. Rashid Albwardy, the young Patron, distinguished himself throughout the tournament by scoring a crop of notable goals.

Cambiaso took the ball straight through the field to secure the first goal on the scoreboard for Dubai. Retaliation was swift as Facundo Pieres snared the ball and sent a nifty pass to Andrade who pushed it between the posts. The frantic pace continued as both teams worked to a game plan of marking their opponent to close down their opportunities for goals, whilst waiting for any loose ball to pick up and run with.

End-to-end play continued through the second chukka but a 40 yard penalty for Zacara was the only goal to be produced. The third chukka began with Cambiaso passing a great ball to Alec White who made no mistake in equalling the scores at 2-2. Facundo stole the ball from his brother Nico and scored a splendid field goal taking Zacara ahead once again. A foul gave Dubai a 60 yard penalty which Nico Pieres sent straight through the posts to 3-3. A foul on Facundo Pieres gave Zacara a 30 yard hit at the goal which he powerfully smacked between the posts. It was the end of the first half and Zacara were ahead 4-3. The crowd was invited onto the pitch to tread in the divots and enthusiastically responded.

The second half started with a hit in for Zacara and Facundo Pieres’ pass to Matt Perry gave the young English player a supreme chance to make his mark on his first Gold Cup final and 5-3 to Zacara. Nico Pieres, surrounded by the opposition, held his nerve sending the ball to Cambiaso, who delivered a classic cut shot plum through the posts. An uncharacteristic mistake by Nico, saw his brother seize the ball from under him and race away to take Zacara ahead 6-4. Andrade stole the ball from Cambiaso, to be picked up by Facundo and a nifty shot saw Zacara ahead 7-4 to close the fourth chukka.

Chukka number 5 began with Cambiaso picking up a loose ball and taking full advantage to gallop away and score. Zacara giving away a penalty at this point set a few nerves tingling as another goal was pulled back for the Dubai team, but Facundo managed two field goals before a penalty for Dubai closed the chukka with Zacara still ahead 9-7.

Both sides tightened their defences for the sixth chukka. Zacara took their score on to 10-7 from a penalty. When Nico Pieres was given the chance to convert another penalty, his mighty lofted shot took Dubai on to 8-10. Could they pull up? Andrade suddenly steered the ball away from the pack, Cambiaso went after him, but as he turned Facundo Pieres had stolen the ball and was away. Down the field he went and his ninth goal of the match secured victory for Zacara at 11-8.

The Gold Cup was presented to Lyndon Lea by Lady Cowdray, a Salamanzar of Veuve Clicquot was presented to him by Jo Thornton, Managing Director of Moët Hennessy UK, and individual prizes were presented by Elsa Corbineau, Senior Brand Manager, Champagnes, Moët Hennessy UK. The Peter Holman prize for Most Valuable Player went to Facundo Pieres, and the Veuve Clicquot saddle for the Highest Goal Scorer of the British Open Championship went to Pelon Stirling and presented by Christina Jesaitis, Senior Brand Manager, Veuve Clicquot, to Mrs Bridget Hanbury on his behalf. The Harper Spurs were presented to Rashid Albwardy by Eugenie Harper, and the Award for Best Playing Pony sponsored by Armstrong International and presented by Spencer George went to Top Model, owned by Facundo Pieres.

After the match, Lyndon Lea modestly said: “We had a plan and we stuck to it. It was all about being disciplined and giving everyone a role.”


The teams:
League A
HB Polo Team (+21)
Ludovic Pailloncy (+1)
Ignacio Toccalino (+8)
Juan Ignacio Merlos (+9)
Sebastien Pailloncy (+3)

Les Lions (+22)
Henry Fisher (+4)
Agustín Merlos (+9)
Sebastián Merlos (+9)
Joachim Gottschalk (0)

Salkeld (+22)
Nick Clarke (+1)
James Beim (+7)
Miguel Novillo Astrada (+9)
Max Routledge (+5)

Twelve Oaks (+22)
Jack Hyde (0)
Cristian Laprida (+8)
Marcos Di Paola (+7)
Ignacio Laprida (+7)

Zacara (+22)
Facundo Pieres (+10)
Lyndon Lea (+1)
Rodrigo Ribeiro de Andrade (+8)
Matt Perry (+3)

League B
El Remanso (+22)
George Hanbury (+3)
Guillermo Terrera (+7)
David Stirling (+10)
Alastair Patterson (+2)

Emlor (+22)
Spencer McCarthy (+2)
Joaquín Pittaluga (+7)
Luke Tomlinson (+7)
Ignacio González (+6)

Lucchese (+22)
John Muse (0)
Mark Tomlinson (+6)
Javier Novillo Astrada (+8)
Jaime García Huidobro (+8)

UAE Polo Team (+22)
Maitha Al Maktoum (0)
Lucas Monteverde (+8)
Pablo MacDonough (+10)
Jack Richardson (+4)

League C
Black Bears (+22)
Guy Schwarzenbach (+2)
Ignatius Du Plessis (+8)
John Paul Clarkin (+8)
Patrick O’Dwyer (+4)

Dubai (+22)
Rashid Albwardy (+2)
Nicolás Pieres (+7)
Adolfo Cambiaso (+10)
Alec White (+3)

Enigma (+22)
Jerome Wirth (+1)
Charlie Hanbury (+4)
Guillermo Willington (+7)
Guillermo Caset (+10)

La Bamba de Areco (+22)
Jean Francois Decaux (0)
Pablo Pieres (+8)
Gonzalo Pieres (+10)
Ollie Cudmore (+4)

League D
Cortium Jaeger-LeCoultre (+22)
Francisco Elizalde (+7)
Chris Mackenzie (+5)
Eduardo Novillo Astrada (+9)
Adrian Kirby (+1)

Sumaya (+22)
Ahmad Aboughazale (+1)
Tomás Garbarini Islas (+4)
Facundo Sola (+8)
Hilario Ulloa (+9)

Talandracas (+22)
Edouard Carmignac (0)
Juan Martín Nero (+10)
Lucas James (+7)
Juan Jauretche (+5)

Thai Polo (+22)
Harald Link (0)
Nick Roldan (+8)
Alejandro Novillo Astrada (+8)
Malcolm Borwick (+6)