In triple-header action Friday, Tonkawa took a commanding 17-11 victory over Horseware/5 Star Builders/Tackeria; Dubai slid by La Indiana 11-9, and Orchard Hill defeated Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym 9-5 as the 20-goal Ylvisaker Cup continued at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).
Control and consistency ruled the day for Dubai. While the final spread was only two goals over La Indiana (11-9), Dubai took an early lead and never looked back. La Indiana crept up to within one goal of Dubai, ending the fourth chukker 7-6. But Dubai took control in the fifth, with Diego Cavanagh scoring four goals (on top of his previous three). La Indiana kept Dubai scoreless in the sixth, with Joao Paulo Ganon scoring twice, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide.
“We controlled the game,” said Alejo Taranco. “We weren’t playing badly last time, but when we had a couple of bad chukkers they killed us. Today we were more consistent in the game, and in the end that made the difference.”
Cavanagh, hot off a scoring blaze in Palermo, was true to form as his own hardest critic. “Every time we had the chance to go ahead by four (goals) we missed the chance, and they scored a goal. When we missed those chances and they came back, we put them in the game.”
In patron Rashid Albwardy’s view, “We had to lock down our defense much better, and that worked for us. The key to attacking is a good defense at the beginning.”
Everything was on the line for Tonkawa in its game against Horseware/5 Star Builders/Tackeria, and it showed. “There was no room for losing,” said high-scorer Sebastian Merlos, who came through with nine goals, noting that a loss would have meant elimination from the tournament. “For us it was like a final.” The key to the 17-11 win, he said, was “mostly attitude.”
The traditional fifth-chukker syndrome was not a factor. After 42 minutes of running their opponents ragged, Tonkawa’s players agreed: They won it in the first chukker. “We started with a very good attitude, and winning the first chukker 6-0 gave us a good pump-up. We managed to stay ahead all the way through,” said Merlos.
The final score does not reflect the strategic adjustments Tonkawa needed to maintain their advantage. The game started with a brief experiment: Team USPA member Mason Wroe, wearing No. 4, was sent to play up front. But when Horseware/5 Star Builders/Tackeria started scoring, said Merlos, “We knew we needed to keep the other side a little more under control, and we decided it was better the old way.” Wroe shifted to his usual role in the back, which gave Merlos more space to maneuver. Former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro made him work for it, scoring six goals while giving direction to his teammates.
Orchard Hill crushed Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym, defeating them 9-5. All four Orchard Hill players scored.
“Every once in a while it’s better to be lucky than good, so I’ll take a lucky goal,” said Van Andel of his single score. “I think the key was persistence.”
Orchard Hill dominated the entire game. In the opening chukker they scored twice, whereas Palm Beach Illustrated/Technogym failed to put a goal on the board. Facundo Obregon, who shoots 65 % from the penalty line, uncharacteristically failed to convert penalty attempts early in the game. The team never seemed to recover. Halfway through the match Orchard Hill seized a four-goal lead, and for the remainder of the game their lead bounced between four and five goals. Facundo Pieres made easy work of his penalty shots, converting three penalties along with scoring two goals from the field.
“The other team missed a couple of goals in the first half that put them in a bad spot,” Pieres said. “They missed three or four penalties and some important goals to close the gap. That gave us confidence going into the second half. We knew that if we didn’t make any big mistakes it would be tough for them to catch us. Everything I told the guys that we should do, they did very well, so I think the team is working well.”
Umpire Hector Galindo, a former 9-goaler, officiated the game on the day that he was to be inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame. “It is a great honor to receive this award after playing polo for so many years. I love the sport. To receive this is a big plus for me,” he said.
Games were live streamed by ChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network. Continuous live coverage of the Ylvisaker Cup resumes Sunday, Feb. 14, with three games at IPC: Enigma versus Valiente (10 a.m.), Audi/Millarville versus Villa del Lago (noon) and Coca-Cola versus White Birch (3 p.m.). All times are EST.