High Ground/GSA pulled away in the second half to defeat previously unbeaten Patagones, 13-9, in theTop Pony 12-Goal Final on Sunday at Patagones.

After the first two tied chukkers (3-3 and 4-4), High Ground/GSA (Joe Meyer, Henry Porter, Torito Ruiz, Inaki Laprida) took a 7-5 halftime lead over Patagones (Joaquin Avendano, Santi Wulff, Tavi Usandizaga, Benjamin Avendano).

Top Pony 12-Goal Final champions Joe Meyer, MVP Henry Porter, Torito Ruiz and Inaki Laprida of High Ground/GSA.

In the second half, High Ground/GSA had leads of 10-6 in the fourth chukker and 13-7 in the fifth chukker and went into cruise control in the final chukker.

“We didn’t play very well in the first half but it was still very close,” Porter said. “In the second half we started playing the way we train to play and you saw how it worked.

Henry Porter of High Ground/GSA tries to ride off Joaquin Avendano.

“Inaki is very easy to play with and Joe as well, we have been playing together for a few years and we know how to play with each other.”

Both teams finished the tournament with 3-1 records.

British player Henry Porter, 17, enjoying his finest season of his young career, was named Most Valuable Player.

High Ground/GSA teammates Inaki Laprida and Henry Porter chase Tavi Usandizaga.

Aceituna, an 8-year-old homebred horse owned by Matias Magrini and ridden by Porter, was named  Best Playing Pony.

“I am really, really happy,” Porter said. “It’s been a fantastic season. Thankfully, we have been really successful. I had a great team throughout the season. Toward the second half of the season we changed a bit but we still continued through with the winning which was really, really good.

Inaki Laprida of High Ground/GSA hits a long ball downfield.

“Even with a different team than what we started out in this tournament, we did really well,” Porter said.

Ruiz, 18, scored a game-high five goals. Laprida and Porter each had four goals. Usandizaga led Patagones with four goals and Benjamin Avendano added three.

While the High Ground/GSA team featured only two members of the original GSA team with Porter and Ruiz, Porter said one of the motivating factors to winSunday’s game was the fact that Patagones was the only team to hand GSA (Global Student Accomodations) a loss during its outstanding winter season that included the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament title.

Joe Meyer of High Ground/GSA heads downfield for a pass from Torito Ruiz.

“This is the only team that beat us in the one game at the very beginning of the season,” Porter said. “They have been the toughest team we have played against throughout the season. It gives you more fight every time you get on the field against them.”

Porter and his GSA teammates will reunite for the $100,000 World Cup that begins on Tuesday.

Santino Magrini and Juan Martin Zubia are expected to return from Argentina to join Ruiz and Porter in the tournament. GSA opens up against Casa Dio on Thursday at 10 a.m.

Santi Wulff of Patagones closely defends Torito Ruiz.

After the World Cup, Porter plans to return to Europe where he will play for England in the FIP 14-Goal World Cup in France and then return to England for the season.

“The World Cup sounds like it is going to be really good fun, I am looking forward to it,” Porter said.

Porter has enjoyed his stay in Wellington, playing with and against some of the sport’s top players.

“This season has been my most successful season, I’ve improved a lot being with Matias and everyone,” Porter said. “This season has been exactly what we hoped for.”

Magrini has been impressed with Porter’s improvement.

Tavi Usandizaga of Patagones tries to get by Joe Meyer of High Ground/GSA. Photos by ChukkerTV

“I think he has changed his attitude a lot, he is a different person,” Magrini said. “He was a little bit shy in the beginning. He has always been a great guy. He learned a lot and became really good friends with Santino, Torito and Juan Martin and got much more inside the group. He worked hard with them in the barn and stick-and-ball. They trained and did everything right to play polo.”

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