16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel 2018: Bendura Bank play the game of a lifetime to take home the win. Following a star-studded Players Night Gala on Saturday night, as the snow fell on the final day of the 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel, tensions were high as the buzz of excitement for the Final rippled through the thousands strong throng of spectators.
Polo Club Kitzbühel were the first to take to the arena against long-time rivals Bernd Gruber, for the Engel & Völkers Cup Final. As has become the norm from the Polo Club Kitzbühel boys in green, Valentin Novillo Astrada came firing out of the first throw-in, continuously attacking and slowing the ball down, in his favour. Following an action packed first two chukkas, the scores were at 9-3½ by half-time, as Novillo Astrada well and truly danced an Argentine tango around his Bernd Gruber opponents. As the match came to a close, Bernd Gruber desperately tried to even the scoreboard, but Polo Club Kitzbühel were having none of it. The final bell sounded and the roar went up as the local Polo Club Kitzbühel team took the victory 11-8½.
2017 champions, Corum, who unfortunately just missed out on the hotly contested 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel Final, were next to do battle against the white shirts of Maserati for the Kitzbühel Country Club Cup. The match turned out to be an extremely strong contest between the equally strong teams. Thomas Winter, lacking his usual lustre at back for Maserati, wasn’t quite as strong an opponent for the vivacious Patrick Maleitzke as he needed to be. At times, the game was left to the extremely capable hands of Caspar Crasemann, who controlled his team’s play with the excellent assistance of Captain Marc Aberle. At half-time, Corum narrowly had the lead 5½-5, making use of the all-important ½ goal handicap advantage. Maserati were plagued with injuries, with both Winter and Crasemann taking moments out of the play to recover. Corum made the most of these windows, racking up goals with determined play. At the final bell, despite a flurry of last minute activity from the Maserati, Corum took the Kitzbühel Country Club Cup crown with a close 10½-9 scoreline.
The third and final match of the day was the big one – the 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Final. Prior to the first throw-in, a minute’s silence was held in honour of Polo Club Kitzbühel member Antonio d’Aurelio. Host team Bendura Bank took to the field for a battle of wills and determination against Engel & Völkers, who they’d lost to two days prior. The top scorer of the tournament, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, fresh from a resounding win in yesterday’s match against Maserati came out fighting with event organiser Tito Gaudenzi and Melissa Ganzi, ably supporting his plays. The Engel & Völkers ‘Red Devils’ had their work cut out, as the match became a Laplacette vs Novillo Astrada Argentine extravaganza and as play progressed it became evident who the leading team were going to be. Novillo Astrada, later named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, was on fire, taking part in every play. Following two expertly gained penalties from Bendura Bank Captain Melissa Ganzi, Novillo Astrada optimised the play to their advantage, reaching a narrow 4-3½ lead at half-time. The third chukka saw even more power from the Bendura Bank side, as they extended their lead, but Engel & Völkers weren’t done yet, answering Bendura Bank’s goals and even taking the lead by a half goal, 6½-6 as the chukka closed. As the players rode on for the fourth and final chukka, it was all to play for on the snow in Kitzbühel. Novillo Astrada answered his Captain’s calls to dominate the final plays, with truly exceptional play, scoring three goals in as many minutes. The final play of the afternoon was a thing of beauty, as Ganzi hit the ball up field to a tentatively waiting Novillo Astrada, strongly defended by Adrian Laplacette for Engel & Völkers, the crowd held their breath. Expertly manoeuvring his pony to take full control of the ball, Novillo Astrada delicately placed the ball through the posts from under his pony’s neck, winning the 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Final with a final score of 10-6½ on the final bell for not only a jubilant team, but an absolutely ecstatic crowd.
Bendura Bank Captain Melissa Ganzi said after the match, “What a weekend we’ve had and this win really tops it off. Following our defeat to Engel & Völkers two days ago, we’ve been honing our team skills and the work really paid off today. We can’t wait to take this perfect trio to St. Moritz next!”