by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe

Valiente made up for an early season loss (in the C. V. Whitney Cup) to Zacara and successfully defended its 2012 USPA Piaget Gold Cup title with a resounding 13-9 win Sunday afternoon at the International Polo Club in Wellington before thousands of enthusiastic spectators. With three of the world’s eight 10-goal players on the field, fireworks were expected, and the crowd wasn’t disappointed. Valiente took the field with 10-goalers Pelon Stirling and Adolfo Cambiaso while the Zacara attack was led by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres.

After racing up and down the pitch for the first four minutes of play, Pelon Stirling scored the only goal of the opening chukker, for an early 1-0 Valiente lead. Second period play saw Zacara score four straight goals for a 4-1 advantage. Pieres opened with a penalty conversion, followed up by a goal from the field two minutes later for a 2-1 lead. Mike Azzaro found himself on the scoring end of a pass from Pieres to make it 3-1 before Pieres blasted the ball through the Valiente goal posts from 90 yards out to make it 4-1. A Zacara foul sent Santi Torres to the penalty line with 17 seconds on the clock where he converted the shot for a goal. Zacara held the lead, 4-2, after the first two chukkers of play. A goal from the field from Pieres was offset by a pair of penalty goals from Torres in the third. Valiente cut into the Zacara lead but continued to trail at the end of the first half, 5-4.

Valiente took total control of the game in the fourth chukker. Cambiaso scored on a penalty goal to tie it up at 5-5 and then gave Valiente the lead with a second penalty shot for a goal at 3:22. A third goal came from Cambiaso with 2:20 left in the chukker. Torres scored his fourth goal of the game and his first from the field followed by another goal from Cambiaso for a commanding 9-5 lead with two chukkers left to play. “Adolfo (Cambiaso) sat us down at halftime and told us what he wanted us to do in the second half,” offered Valiente patron, Bob Jornayvaz. “He told us to mark our men and pass the ball, and we did,” he smiled.

The fourth chukker really did Zacara in as they struggled to regain the momentum. Azzaro opened the fifth with a goal from the field, but the Valiente defense forced them to waste nearly two minutes before the goal was scored. Torres converted another penalty goal at the 4:45 mark for a 10-6 Valiente edge. Pieres scored two goals over the course of the next two minutes to bring Zacara to with a couple goals of the lead, 10-8, when Torres fired back. A penalty goal and a goal from the field from the nineteen-year-old 6-goaler ended the chukker with Valiente maintaining the four goal lead, 12-8.

The final chukker was limited to Cambiaso and Pieres exchanging single goals. Cambiaso scored a goal from the field with five-and-a-half minutes left in regulation play, 13-8 followed by a penalty goal from Pieres at 2:50 for the final score of the game in a 13-9 Valiente victory. Just a year ago Cambiaso and Stirling joined Bob Jornayvaz’s son, Robert, to win the Piaget Gold Cup, and now Robert was on hand (flew in from the University of Virginia for the game) to watch his father defend the title. Torres led the Valiente attack with seven goals (five on penalty shots) and was named MVP. Cambiaso scored five times (twice on penalty shots) and Stirling added a goal for the win. Pieres was credited with seven goals for Valiente (two on penalty shots). Azzaro added two in a losing effort. Stirling’s 10-year-old brown mare, Silk was honored as Best Playing Pony.


PIAGET 9, ERG 8
Earlier in the day 10-goaler Sapo Caset led a resilient Piaget team back from a 5-3 halftime deficit to record a 9-8 win over ERG in the finals of the 26-goal Butler Handicap. Both teams battled for control of the ball in the early goings, but it was nearly halfway through the chukker before ERG’s Paco de Narvaez drove the ball through the Piaget goalposts for a 1-0 lead. A minute-and-a-half later Caset tied it up for Piaget, 1-1, with a penalty conversion.

Miguel Astrada reminded everyone why he carried a 10-goal handicap when he scored on a beautifully executed shot on goal in the opening seconds of the second chukker for a 2-1 lead. Caset added a goal to the Piaget total just three minutes later, 3-1, when ERG pushed back. Piaget fouls sent ERG 9-goaler Agustin Merlos to the penalty line where he converted consecutive shots to make it all even at 3-3 to end the chukker. ERG continued to hold sway over the Piaget offense in the third period. Merlos added two more goals from the field to go on top, 5-3 while shutting out the Piaget attack. At the end of the first half, Piaget trailed by two goals, 5-3. “We missed some opportunities in the first half,” said Caset, “but we felt we were getting into a good rhythm and continued to press. When things started falling our way in the second half, we took advantage of the opportunities.”

Caset’s fourth chukker contributions amounted to five goals (three on penalty shots) while the Piaget defense kept ERG off the scoreboard. The momentum belonged to Piaget and at the end of the fourth period ERG trailed, 8-5. Wesley Bryan (substituting for team captain Scott Wood in the final two chukkers) scored the only goal of the fifth period. Piaget continued to hold the advantage in an 8-6 game. Nacho Badiola scored his first goal of the game in the sixth for a 9-6 lead. ERG responded with single goals from Merlos and Eduardo Astrada, but that was where it ended in the 9-8 Piaget win. Caset led all scoring with eight goals (four on penalty shots) and received VP honors for his efforts. His 10-year-old brown mare, Viparita, was named Best Playing Pony. Badiola added a goal in the Piaget victory. Merlos scored five times for ERG (twice on penalty shots). Eduardo Astrada, de Narvaez and Bryan all scored single goals in the win.


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)

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

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

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) / Juan Bollini (+5)
Sapo Caset (+10) / Lucas Lalor (+5)
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) / Matias Gonzalez (0)
Magoo Laprida (+8)
Mike Azzaro (+7)

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

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