By Alex Webbe
Saturday’s performance by Adolfo Cambiaso in the final of the Tortugas Open, the first leg of Argentina’s Triple Crown of Polo should put to rest any rumors about this being his last year of high-goal polo before retiring to his home in Cañuelas. The Argentine 10-goaler scored ten of La Dolfina’s 11 goals in leading his 40-goal team to their third consecutive Tortugas Open championship over a disjointed effort by the 39-goal Ellerstina foursome.
There have been many comparisons between Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres over the recent years, but the aging superstar made it quite clear who was the King of Polo on the grounds of the Tortugas Country Club Saturday afternoon. Scoring La Dolfina’s first ten goals and staking his team to a 10-7 lead in the sixth chukker, the number one ranked player in the world proved to be the dominant force in the game today.
Ellerstina showed some flare in the early chukkers, taking a 2-1 lead after the first seven minutes of play and matching La Dolfina goal for goal in the second period to maintain a 4-3 advantage before taking control of the game.
Three third chukker goals by “the great one” were supported by shutout defense as La Dolfina moved out to a two-goal, 6-4 advantage.
Ellerstina fought back but a series of fouls by the Ellerstina players and missed penalty shots by Facundo Pieres proved to be costly to the black-shirted Ellerstina team.
Polito Pieres, the game’s most recent 10-goaler, tied it at 7-7 in the sixth chukker before Cambiaso went on a three goal scoring binge (two on penalty conversions) that locked the game up with a 10-7 edge. With two-and-one-half minutes left in the sixth, Pablo MacDonough scored La Dolfina’s final goal of the game for a commanding 11-7 lead. Facundo Pieres converted a penalty shot for his fourth goal of the game with just over a minute eft in the penultimate chukker, but it was La Dolfina with the 11-8 lead and one period left to play.
La Dolfina played defense for the final minutes of the game as Ellerstina tried desperately to edge their way back into the game, but the dominance of the game’s best Back, Juan Martin Nero, and the coordinated team play of the balance of the La Dolfina roster weren’t having any of it. A final Ellerstina goal, a 60-yard penalty shot taken by Nico Pieres, illustrated the frustration Facundo Pieres was having at the penalty line on the day as La Dolfina celebrated the 11-9 victory.
The Herculean efforts by Cambiaso were emphasized by his 7 of 9 penalty conversions in comparison to a disappointing effort by Facundo Pieres who missed four 60-yard attempts from the foul line and two 40-yard shots.
The efforts of Pelon Stirling and Pablo MacDonough cannot be overlooked with MacDonough orchestrating attacks from his Number 3 position while Stirling’s defensive efforts helped in disturbing the offensive attacks of the Ellerstina foursome.
Gonzalito Pieres looked strong in the middle of the Ellerstina lineup, and Nico Pieres showed streaks of brilliance, but a lackluster performance by Facundo Pieres (scoring four penalty shots out of ten attempts) and a disappointing debut on the field by Polito Pieres (scoring four goals from the field) made it clear that the veteran La Dolfina team would continue to rule the game in Argentina, at least for one more.
Cambiaso earned MVP honors for his performance, scoring seven of his game-high ten goals on penalty conversions. Additionally, Chocolate, a 12-year-old Bay gelding, played by Cambiaso and owned by Valiente, S. A. was named Best Playing Pony of the tournament with Fax Cherokee, another Valiente, S. A. pony played by
Cambiaso, honored by the Argentine Polo Horse Breeders Association, as the best Argentine bred pony of the tournament (Chocolate, the 2013 Susan Townley Cup winner as Best Playing Pony of the Argentine Open was born and bred in California).
It was a great day all around for Cambiaso and his La Dolfina teammates while Ellerstina will have to regroup and hope for a better performance against La Dolfina in either the Hurlingham Open or the Argentine Open- if they get the opportunity.