Two one-way semi-finals in the 2015 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup leave King Power Foxes and UAE to battle it out for trophy honours on Sunday at Cowdray Park.
With identical goal differences of six – both surprising in the disparity on the scoreboard – one would have expected both semi finals of the 2015 Gold Cup to be close affairs, like the majority of the quarter-finals were.
Although the heart of the crowd was firmly in the Apes Hill court – just as with Halcyon Gallery at this stage last year – if there were bookies in polo then UAE would have been odds-on favourites.
Featuring the mighty goal scoring machine that is Pablo MacDonough, the pressure on Apes Hill was set in the opening minutes, with MacDonough scoring the first of (most) of UAE’s goals.
Apes Hill were certainly not short of commitment and desire, but Pablo got free again and again, outwitting and out accelerating his opponents.
Apes Hill never quite seemed to settle into a rhythm, playing a game at odds with their superb performance against El Remanso in the quarters – a game that many would have been happy to see as a final.
Each Apes Hill goal was met with rapturous, encouraging applause as if support for the Brits could lift the ball through the posts, and each Pablo goal with appreciative acknowledgement of the skill of one of the best players in the world.
He is, after all, the top goal scorer of the whole tournament so far. Apes Hill had a bad day on penalties, and put a few field goals wide of the posts.
Had they been on the money in both instances, they’d have certainly been in with a shout – but it just wasn’t to be. 14-8 to UAE
The Zacara and King Power Foxes game was also surprisingly uneven, given the firepower on both sides.
Three 10 goalers, a plucky young Brit apiece – and yet King Power Foxes (KPF) just (literally) ran away with it.
The 20-goal combination of Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres, the Argentine brothers who are at the top of their game, just fired in goal after goal, creating a gap in the scoreboard far greater than the scoreline from their victory in the last eight against RH Polo – where they won by a single goal.
Despite the huge lead (an unassailable 15-6, at one late stage), Facundo still found the need to remonstrate with the umpires when things didn’t go his way.
Pete Wright, the umpire, remainined cool and gentlemanly, dismounting at one point to re-secure the tendon boot on one of Jack Hyde’s ponies.
Both Hyde and KPF’s Hugo Lewis are standout British talents and a pleasing sign of things to come from home turf.
GOLD CUP FINAL – ONES TO WATCH
Hugo Lewis (King Power Foxes)
One of Britain’s best up and coming young players, Lewis has shown talent, guts and discipline in all his games this season. He is in the extremely fortunate position of playing with two of the best few players in the world and is in one of the best funded organisations there is.
Pablo MacDonough (UAE)
The mighty 10 goaler and Argentine Open winner is the key player in his team. Top goal scorer of the tournament, impeccably mounted, a tremendous polo brain and almost psychic powers of anticipation makes him a very hard man to beat and a pleasure to watch.