In a fast and furious double bill of winner-takes-all polo at China’s Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club today, Argentina overcame Canada and Chile defeated France to book their places in the semi-finals of the Snow Polo World Cup 2016.

In the day’s first match, the Argentinian trio of Bautista Arrastua, Horacio Fernandez Llorente and Gonzallo del Rio faced off against Canadians Derek Sifton, Robert Stenzel and Scott Weir. Canada had found themselves on the wrong side of a 12-goal drubbing against Hong Kong China in the opening game of the tournament, while Argentina had fared much better, narrowly missing out on victory against the home side. For the winners here, a ticket to the semi-final against England; for the losers a plane ticket home.

Argentina had the lion’s share of chances in a frantic opening chukka, but it was Canada who made theirs count, Robert Stenzel galloping in two goals to Gonzallo del Rio’s one. Del Rio was in commanding form but his finishing was awry; he could have had three or four, and Fernandez Llorente didn’t help matters by popping his penalty wide of the post.

The game swung Argentina’s way in the second, Fernandez Llorente scoring well in the opening seconds, before capitalising on Canada’s reckless defending with two more goals from the penalty spot within the first two minutes. Fortunately for Canada, Stenzel was having a stormer, scoring on his third attacking charge of the chukka, then grabbing another straight from the throw-in to tie the scores at it 4-4. Del Rio was having none of it, however, galloping in a spectacular goal to put Argentina ahead by one at half time.

Another Canadian goalmouth infringement handed Argentina their sixth after the restart courtesy of Llorente, who added number seven soon after with a well-worked team attack. Ominously for Canada, the floodgates were starting to open, Llorente claiming another goal straight down the middle to make it 8-4. Bautista Arrastua then made it nine, connecting adroitly with a bouncing ball to score, before a mistake by Canada’s Scott Weir gave Llorente Argentina’s tenth goal of the day. Down but not out, the plucky Rob Stenzel pulled one back at the buzzer to make it 10-5 in favour of Argentina going into the final chukka.

A commanding start to the final chukka by Argentina saw Del Rio’s massive clearance find Llorente, who galloped on to the ball like a bullet to thump it home. Llorente then added number twelve – another thunderbolt, his pace and poise proving irresistible. Then it was 13, then 14, but credit to Canada for refusing to roll over and very nearly running in a fine team goal. Appropriately, Argentina had the last word with a tapped-in penalty, the final score 15-5.

In the second knockout match of the day, France played Chile, the spoils being a semi-final meeting against hosts Hong Kong China. Both nations had only narrowly lost out to England in their opening matches, so this contest promised to be a humdinger.

The Chilean trio of Francisco Martinez, Ignacio Vial and Alejandro Vial took on Robert Strom, Clement Delfosse and Brieuc Rigaux.

Chilean number three Alejandro Vial got his country off to a fine start with a rampant opening goal; France counterattacked immediately but their shot snatched just wide. Then it was Francisco Martinez’ turn for Chile, galloping on to Alejandro Vial’s clearance and checking his pony’s run beautifully to keep control and score. France’s Robert Strom responded by running the length of the field to put his side on the scoreboard, but it was Chile who had the last word of the chukka, Martinez scoring again to make it 3-1.

Chile were on target again at the start of the second, Martinez sweeping up the scraps of Ignacio Vial’s fine attacking play to score. Though the finesse and thrust of the Chileans had so far proved more effective than the muscular style of the French, the boys in blue continued to hassle and harry, Clement Delfosse grabbing a penalty and Brieuc Rigauxadding a bullying third to make it 4-3 in favour of Chile at half time.

The pace didn’t let up in the third, both sides putting in bruising hits and ride-offs. Chilean pressure led to a fifth goal for the South American side via an Ignacio Vial penalty, then France made another reckless infringement, gifting Vial yet another penalty goal to make it 6-3. Clement Delfosse scored a penalty of his own just passed the three minute mark to put his side back in it, and France looked to have scored another soon after but for a heroic goal line clearance from Alejandro Vial. Bad luck for the French again at the death, Strom scoring half a second after the buzzer; 6-4 in favour of Chile going into the final chukka.

A strong start for the French saw Brieuc Rigaux capping off a thrusting team attack to put his side within touching distance of the Chileans, but touching distance they stayed, despite France giving it absolutely everything and then some. In the end, Chile put the game out of sight with an Alejandro Vial penalty 20 seconds from time to make the final score 7-5.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s semi-finals, England will play Argentina while Hong Kong China will face Chile. The winners will contest the Grand Final on Sunday, with the losers fighting it out for third place in the Subsidiary Final.

The teams:
Argentina (+16)
Juan Echeverz (+4)
Horacio Fernandez Llorente (+6)
Gonzalo Del Rio (+6)
Reserve Player: Martín Orozco (+2)

Canada (+13)
Derek Sifton (+4)
Robert Stenzel (+5)
Scott Weir (+4)

Chile (+16)
Francisco Martínez (+6)
Alejandro Vial (+6)
Ignacio Vial (+4)
Reserve Player: Andrés Vial (+4)

England (+16)
George Meyrick (+6)
Jack Richardson (+6)
Alastair Patterson (+4)

France (+14)
Clement Delfosse (+5)
Robert Strom (+4)
Brieuc Rigaux (+5)

Hong Kong China (+16)
James Harper (+6)
Matias Vial (+6)
Henry Fisher (+4)
Reserve Player: Santiago Cernadas (+6)

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