The polo gods were looking down fondly on Kitzbühel today with the sun shining brightly in the heart of Tyrolean Alps, ready for the second day of the 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup.
The first match of the day was a heated, high octane affair. Cîroc Vodka, having won their initial match 8-4½ against Bernd Gruber, were looking for a second win to secure their spot in the 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Final, with 2017 winners Maserati hoping to rectify their first match loss. With a 1½ goal handicap advantage at the first throw-in, it looked like the all-German Maserati team might hold their early lead, but Cîroc’s Valentin Novillo Astrada was having none of it. In the first chukka, Novillo Astrada ensured Cîroc’s presence on the scoreboard, to only one in response from Thomas Winter. By half-time, a goal from Novillo Astrada and Aki Van Andel put the boys in blue ahead 4-3½ going into the break. From here, the game became Cîroc’s. With tensions looking calmer than they had in the first half, Novillo Astrada went about ensuring his team secured their spot in the Final. He and Van Andel racked up another nine goals in the following two chukkas, despite impressive defensive play from Maserati’s Caspar Crasemann and Winter. At the final bell, Cîroc Vodka rode off the field with a 13-6½ win and a spot in tomorrow’s Final.
The second match of day two was set to be the decider, with 2017 champions Corum, following an injury to number one Eckhardt Juls in the first day of play, welcoming back Corum veteran 3 goal Lukas Sdrenka to once again sport the famous yellow shirt. With this change to the line-up, the team now took to the field with a 12 goal handicap, in theory putting themselves leaps and bounds ahead of the 10 goal Bernd Gruber. However, from the off, Frenchman Pierre-Henri Ngoumou was a force to be reckoned with. As if facing the competition on a personal battle, Ngoumou controlled the play from the back, changing pace, rhythm and direction on a sixpence. It took all the power and experience of Corum regular Patrick Maleitzke to prise the ball from Ngoumou but take it he did. By half-time, Corum had put themselves ahead 5-3½, but as the second half commenced, Grant Ganzi secured a much needed 15 yard penalty, bringing Bernd Gruber back into the game. A huge, cross-field hit from Ngoumou put Bernd Gruber into the driver’s seat for the first time in the game, as the crowd erupted from the stands, but Maleitzke knew what he had to do. Two quick fire goals ended the chukka, with Corum back in the lead 7-5½. The final chukka was fraught and fiery as Maleitzke worked his magic again at the off, swiftly followed by one in response from Ganzi. With another powerful run and storming goal from Maleitzke, it looked like it was all over for Bernd Gruber. But, as the clock ticked down, Bernd Gruber Captain, Brazilian Eduardo Greghi placed himself in exactly the right place at the right time, securing the final goal of the match. Corum may have won the second match 9-7½, but with the teams so unbelievably close this year, who ended up in the Final would go down to the last match on goal difference.
With the eagerly awaited bustling crowd nestled in the VIP Enclosure, ready to see their favourite players in action, the final match got under way on day two of the 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup. This exciting match was set to be a rematch of the 2018 Final, with Bendura Bank up against their venerable rivals Engel & Völkers. With a loss for Bendura Bank and a win yesterday for Engel & Völkers, the host team needed to bring their A-game to halt the ‘Red Devils’ in their tracks to the Final. With the teams evenly matched, 12 goals apiece, Argentine Adrian Laplacette Jr was the first to find the posts, securing a fast goal, but 8 goaler Alejandro Novillo Astrada, the highest handicapped player in the tournament, wasn’t far behind him in response. Laplacette Jr found his groove early in the match with another two goals before the bell signalled the end of the first chukka. Bendura Bank Captain Melissa Ganzi began the second chukka with the first of her four successful 15 yard penalties during the match, ensuring Bendura Bank weren’t far behind their rivals. But, with goals from Agustin Kronhaus, an own goal off a horse in Engel & Völkers favour and another goal from Laplacette Jr, by half-time, the ‘Red Devils’ were four goals ahead 6-2. Following the half-time break, Ganzi continued her 15 yard penalty streak with two golden goals, but in a rare incident, Novillo Astrada clashed heads with his own horse, removing him from the rest of the match with fortunately nothing more than concussion. Luckily, 7 goal Isidro Strada was waiting in the wings to help his fallen comrade, quickly sporting his team shirt and setting out for the rest of the match for Bendura Bank. Engel & Völkers by now had the momentum. Captain Kutlay Yaprak had an extraordinary burst of energy, scoring a whopping three field goals in as many minutes to only two from his Bendura Bank adversaries. So, as the sun set behind the snow-laden hills, Engel & Völkers secured their second consecutive Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Final position, which will this year, see them face the brand new Cîroc Vodka team on the final day of play.
Lead sponsor and CEO of Bendura Bank, Dr Andreas Insam said following the day’s play, “Today has been fantastic. We have been blessed with excellent weather, thrilling polo and spectacular company. We can’t wait for tomorrow’s Finals day and to see who will be crowned 2019 champions.”
The entrance to the public area is free with delicious local delights and refreshments available from food trucks to keep even the keenest spectators fed and watered throughout the week’s activities.
Some VIP tickets for this polo and party spectacular, including catering, are available from www.kitzbuehelpolo.com
Programme of the 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel:
Sunday 20th January
11.30am: Bendura Bank vs Maserati (Match for 5th and 6th place)
12.45pm: Bernd Gruber vs Corum (Kitzbühel Country Club Cup Finals for 3rd and 4th place)
2pm: Cîroc vs Engel & Völkers (Final of the 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel)
3.30pm: Prize-giving ceremony, presentation of Most Valuable Player and Best Playing Pony Awards and photo shoot
The 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel Teams are as follows:
Bendura Bank (12):
Melissa Ganzi (1/USA)
Alejandro Novillo Astrada (8/USA – substituted by Isidro Strada 7)
Tito Gaudenzi (3/CH)
Engel & Völkers (12):
Kutlay Yaprak (1/TUR)
Agustin Kronhaus (4/ARG)
Adrian Laplacette Jr. (7/ARG)
Cîroc Vodka (12):
Sebastian Schneberger (2/GER),
Aki van Andel (3/NED)
Valentin Novillo Astrada (7/ARG)
Bernd Gruber (10):
Eduardo Greghi (0/BRA)
Grant Ganzi (3/USA)
Pierre Henri Ngoumou (7/FR)
Lukas Sdrenka (3/GER)
Patrick Maleitzke (4/GER)
Juan Ruiz-Guiñazú (5/ARG)
Marc Aberle (1/GER)
Caspar Crasemann (4/GER)
Thomas Winter (5/GER)
Commentator: Jan-Erik Franck
Umpire: Mark Holmes
The Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel 2019 programme began on Thursday 17th January, with the team presentations at Hotel zur Tenne in the heart of Kitzbühel village. Following this time-honoured start, matches got underway on Friday 18th January and continue until the Final on Sunday 20th January. For more information about the event, please click here – www.kitzbuehelpolo.com
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