By Alex Webbe
The final of the 2015 USPA Piaget Gold Cup was truly a tale of two teams. Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Ezequiel Gallego Ferrario, Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres) rode into the game with a C. V. Whitney Cup title in their pocket and a record of seven consecutive 26-goal wins without a loss this season. Orchard Hill boasted the talented Pieres cousins, 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, who was leading the tournament in scoring with 31 goals in four games, and cousin Polito Pieres with a 9-goal handicap and talents that improve daily.
Audi was eliminated in their second round C. V. Whitney Cup game against Alegria, a Whitney Cup finalist. They bounced back in the Piaget Gold Cup, registering four consecutive wins to earn a berth in the tournament final. With 9-goaler Gonzalito Pieres (Facundo’s older brother), Audi boasted the second highest scorer in Gold Cup competition. Brazilian 9-goaler Rodrigo was solid at Number 2 and 6-goaler Fred Mannix handled the Back position for Audi. The only question mark going into the game with Orchard Hill was the health of team patron Marc Ganzi. Ganzi had suffered a shoulder separation in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Las Monjitas and was doubtful to play. His appearance on the Sunday field was a surprise, his performance more than anyone could expect. Marc credited the miraculous recovery to the work of his trainer, Argentine Daniel Martinez, who had been working with him four to five hours a day since the fall four days ago.
With the talented one-two punch of Facundo and Polito Pieres, most expected that Audi would have their hands full, but it turned out to be the other way around. The first goal that was scored came from Gonzalito Pieres on a 40-yard penalty conversion, 2-0 (the 25-goal Audi team received one goal by handicap to start the game). Less than a minute later, another Orchard Hill foul returned Gonzalito Pieres to the penalty line where he scored on a penalty shot from 60-yards out, 3-0. Facundo Pieres closed out the chukker with a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal to trail Audi, 3-1.
At the 6:30 mark of the second chukker Facundo Pieres scored on a 30-yard penalty shot that cut the Audi lead to a single goal, 3-2. Consecutive goals from Gonzalito Pieres and Fred Mannix extended the Audi lead to three goals, 5-2. Facundo Pieres scored on a 30-yard penalty shot and added another goal from the field to bring Orchard Hill to within a goal of the lead, 5-4. Orchard Hill fouled with 35 seconds on the clock, allowing Gonzalito Pieres to score on a 50-yard penalty shot for a 6-4 Audi lead.
The two teams traded goals in the third chukker. Mannix opened the scoring with a goal midway through the chukker, 7-4. Facundo Pieres responded with an Orchard Hill goal, 7-5. Gallego Ferrario cut the Audi lead back to a single goal, 7-6, but with 31 seconds on the clock, Gonzalito Pieres scored for the fifth time for an 8-6 halftime lead.
A determined Orchard Hill team took to the field in the fourth chukker with Facundo Pieres leading the procession. A goal from the field in the first 30 seconds was followed by two penalty goals that first tied the game at 8-8 and then put Orchard Hill in the lead, 9-8. Mannix scored the tying goal for Audi, 9-9, but Facundo Pieres took the lead back, 10-9, with the final goal of the chukker at 1:32.
Polito Pieres scored his first goal of the game in the opening minute of the fifth chukker, 11-9, but Audi fought right back. Audi picked up consecutive goals from Mannix, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade to regain the lead, 12-11. Facundo Pieres converted a 60-yard penalty shot that tied the game at 12-12, but Audi wasn’t through yet. Fouls by Orchard Hill had Polito Pieres going to the penalty line where he scored consecutive goals on penalty shots of 60 and 30-goals to give Audi a two goal lead, 14-12 at the end of the chukker.
Polito Pieres scored his second goal of the game to open the sixth, 14-13. Gonzalito Pieres countered with a goal of his own three minutes later, 15-13. Polito Pieres cut the lead back to a single goal at 1:31 and Facundo Pieres carried the ball from one end of the field to the other end of the field to score the tying goal, 15-15, with five seconds left in regulation play.
After a brief intermission that allowed the players to find fresh mounts, they returned to the field. Audi took control of the opening throw-in and drove toward the Orchard Hill goal. After just 29 seconds of play, another Orchard Hill foul sent Gonzalito Pieres to the penalty line where he converted a 40-yard penalty shot for the winning goal, 16-15, in the highest scoring game in Gold Cup history.
Gonzalito Pieres led the Audi attack with ten goals (seven on penalty shots). Mannix added four goals, Andrade scored once and the team received one goal by handicap. Facundo Pieres led the field with eleven goals on the afternoon (six on penalty conversions). Polito Pieres was credited with three goals and Ferrario scored once in the loss.
Gonzalito Pieres was named MVP for his efforts while his mare, Rosparita picked up Best Playing Pony honors.