Ellerstina and La Aguada Seize the Day in Palermo
By Darlene Ricker
Ellerstina Johor took a commanding 17-10 victory over La Irenita, and La Aguada Las Monjitas defeated El Paraíso 13-12 in overtime Monday in the 123rd Argentine Open Polo Championship. In both matches, every player on the field scored.
In the Ellerstina-La Irenita match, the final numbers on the scoreboard were not an accurate reflection of how hard-fought the battle was. La Irenita may have been the underdog, but they made the recent winner of the Hurlingham Open fight for every goal. It was a fast, open, running game from start to finish.
Ellerstina came on like gangbusters in the third chukka, making five goals to take an eight-goal lead. Polito Pieres started the scoring in that chukka with two back-to-back goals, including one in which he ran the ball straight from the throw-in into goal. Facundo Pieres followed up with two consecutive goals of his own. Nico Pieres swooped in for the final goal of the chukka, which ended 10-2.
Matías MacDonough played with a mixture of ferocity and finesse for La Irenita. In similar fashion to the Pieres fest of the previous chukka, MacDonough made two goals in rapid-fire succession in the fourth. High-scorer for La Irenita with four total goals, he had a superb day and was on top of his game every moment.
The second half opened 12-4 for Ellerstina. La Irenita dug their heels in, holding Ellerstina scoreless until the final seconds of the fifth chukka, when Gonzalito Pieres scored. Nico Pieres and Facundo Pieres commanded the sixth, each making a slick goal directly from the throw-in. La Irenita rallied in the final chukka, allowing their opponent only one goal, courtesy of Nico Pieres. La Irenita’s Juan Ruiz Guiñazú made the final goal of the day with just seven seconds left in regulation play. The game ended 17-10 for La Ellerstina.
The second game was a scrappy contest all the way through between La Aguada Las Monjitas and El Paraíso. It concluded 13-12 in La Aguada’s favour with a golden goal by Alejandro Novillo Astrada 33 seconds into extra time.
The Novillo Astradas, as always, were a force of nature. Thanks to synchronized plays by Eduardo and Miguel Novillo Astrada, and Alejandro’s skill at goal, La Aguada grabbed a 6-1 lead in the first minutes of the third chukka. Meanwhile, Ignacio Toccalino and Ignacio Heguy swarmed the field, fighting all from one end to the other for the ball. Teammate Agustín Merlos’ pinpoint accuracy from the penalty line helped El Paraíso turn the tables on La Aguada as halftime approached. With two consecutive penalty shots, Merlos tied the game at 7 and then pulled El Paraíso into the lead for the first time, 8-7. An on-fire Merlos ended up as the game’s high-scorer with eight goals.
Goals were harder to come by for both teams in the second half. After several ties, El Paraíso broke through and clung to a 1-to-2-goal advantage until the end of regulation play. Santiago Toccalino thwarted what looked like a sure goal in the making with a masterful save inches from the goalmouth at 1:50 into the eighth. Ignacio Novillo Astrada tied the game at 12 with just 14 seconds left in regulation play. It didn’t take La Aguada long to claim the victory with a shot by Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
The tournament resumes Saturday. All games in the Open may be viewed (except for in Latin America) on livestream at: http://espni.go.com/player/video/playdemoesp/index.htm