Orchard Hill will face Valiente for 2015 US Open
The Semi Finals for the 2015 US Open were held at International Polo Club Palm Beach yesterday with Orchard Hill and Valiente coming out on top.
The first match between Gillian Johnston’s Coca-Cola and Orchard Hill saw the red-shirted Sugar Erskine notch up the first goal, scoring after a pass from his patron nearly half-way through the opening chukka. This was followed up by field goal by Orchard Hill’s Polito Pieres, closely seconded by a 30-yard converted penalty by his cousin, Facundo. Going into the second with a 2-1 lead, Orchard Hill remained on the attack to score again before aggressive play from Coca-Cola saw Stirling and Arellano level the score. A quick goal from Facundo before the bell rang, meant Orchard Hill edged again into the lead. The start of the third, and 10 goaler, Facu once again pounced on the ball and despite a penalty conversion by Arellano for Coca-Cola, Gold Cup Finalists, Orchard Hill left the pitch at half-time with the scoreboard reading 5-4.
The fourth and fifth chukkas saw just a single goal bought to the Coca-Cola table whilst the Pieres duo continued to lead their team into a wider and wider lead. Going into the sixth, Orchard Hill controlled the match with an 11-5 scoreline. Two deliberate and decisive penalty conversions from a calm and collected Arellano gave fizz to Coca-Cola’s campaign to cut their opposition’s lead to four goals, but it was short-lived. Ferrario carried the ball half the length of the pitch to secure Orchard Hill’s twelfth goal and despite retaliation once again from Arellano, Steve Van Andel’s team secured their place in Sunday’s Final with a score of 12-8.
The second match was a hard fought for battle between an injury-prone Valiente and Gold Cup winners, Audi. From the first throw-in, it was evident that Valiente – US Open Finalists, not winners in 2013 and 2014 – and a well-drilled Audi side were focused on the ultimate prize. By the end of the first chukka, Marc Ganzi’s Audi raced into the lead with one field goal and two penalties from Gonzalito Pieres to a goal a piece from Valiente’s Alejo Taranco and Cambiaso. Again in the second, Audi powered forward taking the scores to 6-2 before Cambiaso and his teammates returned to the fray, but it didn’t take long for them to close the gap to 6-5. Spectators hoping for a flurry of goals before half-time were left disappointed as both team’s defence locked down, with only Cambiaso finding the posts after an Audi foul and leveling the scores to 6-all.
The beginning of the second half was much the same with only one goal apiece in the fourth and Gonzalito Pieres finally scoring nearly at the end of the fifth. A 60-yard penalty ably converted by Cambiaso was quickly followed by a field goal from the 10 goal Argentine which took them into a narrow one-goal lead, 9-8. Pieres found the posts to tie the game in the sixth, before Cambiaso took the score to 10-9 with his fourth penalty conversion of the match. Before the final bell rang, Pieres executed his eighth goal of the game, leveling the scores at 10-all and forcing the match into overtime. After a brief pause, the teams returned to the pitch for sudden death and play got underway. Sadly, after a gladiatorial-style game, a penalty challenge and fouls were the deciding factors and, despite Audi’s significant efforts, Alejo Taranca spirited the ball down field to claim victory for Valiente, 11-10.
Orchard Hill will face Valiente in the Final for the 2015 US Open on Sunday 19 April.
Orchard Hill Coca-Cola
Steve Van Andel 0 Gillian Johnston 2
Ezequiel Ferrario 7 Pelon Stirling 10
Polito Pieres 9 Julio Arellano 8
Facundo Pieres 10 Sugar Erskine 6
Orchard Hill defeated Coca-Cola 12-8
Bob Jornayvaz 2 Marc Ganzi 1
Alejo Taranco 6 Rodrigo Andrade 9
Guillermo Terrera 8 Gonzalito Pieres 9
Adolfo Cambiaso 10 Freddie Mannix 6
Valiente defeated Audi in OT 11-10
Photograph: The Orchard Hill team is through to the Final of The US Open. By Liz Lamont Images/ Phelps Media Group.