By Darlene Ricker
Three-time defending champion La Dolfina defeated Alegría 20-10, and Cría Yatay took a teeth-clenching 13-12 victory over Washington in the fifth round of the 123rd Argentine Open Polo Championship HSBC in Palermo. The win sent La Dolfina directly to the semifinals, while Alegría and Cría Yatay qualified for the quarterfinals. Washington was eliminated, but the impressive play of Facundo Sola and Diego Cavanagh throughout the tournament left no doubt that the team in red will be back.
There may not have been as many jaw-dropping plays as spectators have become accustomed to at the Open, but Tuesday’s faceoff between La Dolfina and Alegría still offered something special: a full serving of consistently classic polo. It was as clean, fast and spectacular as the game gets.
La Dolfina came out on a hot streak, clearly gunning for the semifinals. The Cañuelas contingent dominated from start to finish, with Juan Martín Nero his usual impenetrable stone wall. David “Pelón”Stirling and Pablo Mac Donough in the middle made 6 goals each. So did Adolfo Cambiaso, who broke yet another record in Palermo by surpassing his own benchmark of 850 goals.
Alegría made La Dolfina earn every goal. An unexpected turn of events made that even more difficult to do than usual. The squad in magenta (“please don’t call it pink,”said one of their handlers) found themselves at a distinct disadvantage with nearly three chukkas left to go. Guillermo “Sapo” Caset, who can always be counted on for a high quota of goals, had to be replaced two minutes into the second half due to a probable tear in his left abductor. Alejandro Muzzio subbed in and scored a goal in the sixth. (It is as yet undetermined whether Caset will be on the roster for the quarterfinals.) Hilario Ulloa, who has had an outstanding season, carried his team with 6 goals.
The other match was the epitome of battle. The score volleyed between a 1-point gap and a tie throughout the fifth chukka, which closed 13-9 for Cría Yatay. Washington came to kill or be killed in the last period. They made three consecutive goals, courtesy of Sola, who scored all 12 of his team’s goals. With Washington attacking and defending in all sectors of the field, the game came to an electrifying 13-12 finish in Cría Yatay’s favor. On the upside for both teams, they qualified for the Triple Crown 2017.
The tournament continues Wednesday. Ellerstina Johor plays La Aguada Las Monjitas, and El Paraíso opposes La Irenita. 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