By Darlene Ricker
Ellerstina secured a slot in the semifinals with a 14-9 win Wednesday over La Aguada Las Monjitas in the sixth round of the 123rd Argentine Open Polo Championship HSBC. La Irenita took a 14-12 upset victory over El Paraíso and eliminated them from the tournament. La Irenita advances to the quarterfinals, along with La Aguada Las Monjitas, who had already earned a spot.
After a hesitant first chukka, Ellerstina gradually began to take advantage, largely due to the megaforce of Pieres brothers Facundo and Gonzalo. The first half ended 7-5 for Ellerstina. Ellerstina soon established a four-to-five goal spread, which they maintained through the second half. Facundo Pieres, who drove his team’s victory and made nine of their goals, broke the barrier of 400 goals in the Argentine Open (now with 406).
La Aguada Las Monjitas got a jolt when Ignacio Novillo Astrada was injured at 5 minutes 11 seconds into the fourth chukka and had to be replaced. Francisco Elizalde subbed in and scored three goals in open play. With the loss, the orange-clad team must face Cría Yatay on Sunday for a place in the semifinals.
The other match was a scrappy, dig-in-your-heels confrontation between “David” (La Irenita, rated at 29 goals) and “Goliath” (El Paraíso, 35). Goals were hard to come by for either side for a while, with each team scoring only once in each of the first three chukkas. It was 6-all in the fifth when a shot from the line by Juan “Tito” Ruiz Guiñazú gave La Irenita a slight edge. In the sixth Guiñazú made three goals, one of them particularly spectacular. That pulled La Irenita ahead 10-6 and boosted their confidence, as El Paraíso had not won any chukkas.
Guiñazú continued to carry his team, making 11 of La Irenita’s 14 goals. Juan Zavaleta, Clemente Zavaleta and Matías Mac Donough each contributed another to the board. Agustín “Tincho”Merlos, who has had a powerful showing in both the English and Argntine 2016 seasons, was El Paraíso’shigh-scorer with seven goals.
The tournament resumes this weekend with the quarterfinals Saturday, when La Irenita faces Alegría.
All games in the Open are being live streamed on ESPN (except for in Latin America): http://espni.go.com/player/video/playdemoesp/index.htm