Last minute win from the unbeatable La Dolfina
It was no surprise to anyone when La Dolfina and Ellerstina came out on top after the qualifying rounds of the HSBC Hurlingham Open, and the Final had all the makings of a now somewhat predictable Triple Crown Final, but on Saturday 7 November the two teams truly wowed the crowds with some spectacular polo and kept the spectators gripped to the fast paced action.
Ellerstina started the game in style with a fantastic goal from Facundo Pieres in the opening 30 seconds of the game and this pressure was kept up throughout the first five chukkas with the Pieres boys always remaining two goals ahead of a seemingly panicked La Dolfina. A dramatic fourth chukka saw several players go injured in to half-time, with Stirling on the receiving end of a huge backhand from Facundo and Facundo himself suffering a fall that meant a delay as paramedics treated his shoulder, hurt as his horse went down over the boards. Despite the dealys all players determinedly soldiered on and the fifth chukka drew to a close with an impressive lead of 12 goals to 8 for Ellerstina. It seemed like it might be the end of La Dolfina’s winning streak and with it an end to their dreams of making history by winning three consecutive Triple Crowns. However, in the sixth chukka the foursome from Cañuelas started to fight back, helped by two fouls from Ellerstina in the La Dolfina goal mouth, which led to two easily converted spot penalties for Cambiaso. This seemed to be the turning point in the game and La Dolfina, having found their stride, put pressure on the boys in black throughout the seventh chukka bringing the score back to a two goal difference for the final chukka. The pressure was too much for Ellerstina who conceded four goals in the last chukka, Stirling equalising the score at 14-14 before Cambiaso, with just one minute to go before the final buzzer, lofted a 60 yard penalty high through the goal posts, winning La Dolfina the Hurlingham Open and the second title in this year’s Triple Crown.
A disappointing result for a deserving Ellerstina who Gonzalito Pieres admits had a bad final chukka which cost them the game, “The thing was that we played really well except for that last chukka but with a team like La Dolfina you can’t afford to make mistakes.” This was certainly the case as La Dolfina’s uncanny ability to capitalise on even the smallest error means that they go in to the final tournament of the series with high hopes and high expectations. Can they do what no team has done before or will Ellerstina find the power to finally defeat these giants of polo?
The HSBC Hurlingham Open Final teams:
La Dolfina (40): Adolfo Cambiaso (10), David Stirling, Jr. (10), Pablo Mac Donough (10), & Juan Martín Nero (10)
Ellerstina (39): Pablo Pieres (10), Nicolás Pieres (9), Gonzalito Pieres (10), & Facundo Pieres (10)
Result: 15-14 to La Dolfina
Most Valuable Player: David Stirling
Fair Play: Gonzalito Pieres
Best Playing Pony: Oli Chicha, played by Juan Martín Nero
Photograph: Facundo Pieres with an under the neck shot to goal. By Katie Vickery