By Darlene Ricker
Once again La Dolfina rode into history with their fourth consecutive win at the 123rd Argentine Open Polo Championship on Saturday. The Cañuelas contingent took a 16-12 victory over archrival Ellerstina in a match that was as psychological as it was physical.
A confident Ellerstina burst out of the gate, looking much as they did in their recent win over La Dolfina in the 2016 Hurlingham Open final, right down to their choice of black jerseys. They got to the field early enough to stake out a claim to the scoreboard end of the field, which they feel brings them luck. That’s where their palenque was situated both years Ellerstina took down La Dolfina in the Argentine Open final (2010 and 2012). This year’s final, however, went the other way.
La Dolfina was every bit as stoked as their opponent and eventually wore them down—but it took a while. All the way through the sixth chukka, the score bounced back and forth by a very slim margin. The game had been tied seven times by that point, with the score 11-all at the end of the sixth.
What didn’t show on the scoreboard was that La Dolfina was outplaying Ellerstina, and Ellerstina knew it. By the top of the seventh chukka,
La Dolfina had won 23 throw-ins and Ellerstina 7. Ellerstina had fouled almost twice as often as their opponent (9-5). To the eight guys on the field, it was clear that unless the paradigm shifted very quickly, it was only a matter of time until La Dolfina would pull ahead. And that’s exactly what happened.
In a complex seventh chukka, La Dolfina made three unanswered goals, leaving Ellerstina scoreless. That chipped away at Ellerstina’s confidence, although by all appearances it didn’t weaken their resolve. Facundo Pieres stayed in Pablo MacDonough’s hip pocket, chasing him flat-out as MacDonough made a smooth series of textbook hits—one, two three—and ran the ball straight into goal. A chukka that opened 11-11 ended 14-11.
La Dolfina only allowed Ellerstina one more goal before the final horn. La Dolfina systematically inched ahead, solidifying their lead to four goals (15-11) early in the final chukka with a goal by David“Pelón” Stirling. Pieres launched into an impressive move, weaving his horse though a pack of white jerseys that looked like gridlock and ducking into goal. Juan Martín Nero put in the last wordfor La Dolfina, ending the final 16-12.
Adolfo Cambiaso was named MVP of the tournament. Awards for the final went to David Stirling (MVP); Juan Martin Nero (best string), and“Zippi”(Best Playing Pony), played by David Stirling.