By Liz Leamy
Sentinel Correspondent

On Sunday, the East Coast Open kicked into high gear at the Greenwich Polo Club, as Audi, the formidable high-goal contingent based out of the New York City area, catapulted to the top of the leaderboard in thrilling fashion by beating Monterosso 13-9.

The match pitting Monterosso, a high-powered world-class polo squad based out of Palm Beach, Fla. that frequently travels for competition in Great Britain, against Audi was the first-round opener of the ECO.

Playing in front of a packed and engaged house of more than 4,000 spectators, the agile four-member Audi squad, whose total goal ranking, like Monterosso’s, added up to a lofty 20 goals, put the proverbial pedal to the metal.

Audi’s fiery 21-year-old seven-goaler, Torito Jorba-Ruiz, known to be a rising star in the high-goal polo community, knocked in nine of his team’s 13 total points with the focus, command, and aptitude of a seasoned world-class athlete.

At the conclusion of the match, Ruiz was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Right from the outset, it was clear all of the players on both teams, along with their powerful charges, were right on point as they faced off against one another on the famous and expansive Conyers Farm turf in fast and furious style, displaying superb skill, speed and stick and ball maneuvering, much to the delight of the crowd.

Throughout the entire first half, Monterosso lead the match.

This squad’s impressive roster, which included Alessandro Bazzoni, its stealth and dedicated patron (who evidently had named the team after his hometown in Italy); Santino Magrini, the energetic Argentinian four-goaler and son of esteemed seven-goaler and Audi team member Matias Magrini; Ignacio Tocalino, the remarkable Italian eight-goaler and Naco Taverna, the ever-steady Argentinian six-goaler, worked in effective tandem together to claim a 5-3 advantage over Audi at the end of the third chukker.

Things subsequently shifted during the second half, however, when Audi’s Ruiz-Jorba drove in two points for his team in the fourth chukker to tie the score at 5-5.

From that point on, Audi continued to enforce their presence in this heated match.

Ignacio Tocalino, left, of Monterosso and Toro Ruiz-Jorma of Audi fight for the ball at Sunday’s East Coast Open first-round contest at the Greenwich Polo Club. (John Ferris Robben photo)

During the fifth chukker, Ruiz-Jorba and Joaquin Panelo, the powerful Argentinian six-goaler; along with Matias Magrini, the masterful Argentinian seven-goaler; and Christopher Brant, the team’s ever-steady No. 1 player, worked together in electric fashion knocking in five goals to render a 10-7 score against Monterosso, who racked up two additional points.

During the sixth and final chukker, Audi further increased their lead over Monterosso, as Audi’s Ruiz-Jorba and Panelo scored three more goals, putting their team at the top of the leaderboard by the conclusion of the match.

The terrific chemistry among the members of Audi appeared to be a key factor to their outcome in this match and also indicative that they are one of the main contenders at this major annual high-goal tournament.

“They are incredible,” said John Davis of New York City, who has been attending matches at the Greenwich Polo Club for most of this season. “It’s been a fast and interactive game and you can see everyone here is watching it so intensely.”

According to the Audi athletes, the match was a success due to the exceptional playing level of every athlete and horse out on the field that afternoon.

“We played a very good team and I think everyone out there was a winner today,” said Matias Magrini, known as one of the star marquis players at the GPC. “[Monterosso] played really well and it was exciting to be out there. Toro (Ruiz-Jorba, who is Magrini’s nephew) also played unbelievably well, especially in the second half.”

According to Ruiz-Jorba, the best thing about the afternoon was to have an opportunity to do what he enjoys more than anything else, which is playing polo.

“I love playing and it’s always nice to be out there,” said Ruiz-Jorba. “I came here to play today and that’s all I think about when I’m out there.”

For Christopher Brant, who is also the son of Peter Brant, iconic founder of the GPC and longtime patron of the Greenwich-based White Birch contingent, the 2016 East Coast Open champions, it was exciting to see everything come together for his team.

Audi upended Monterosso in thrilling fashion, 13-9. (John Ferris Robben photo)

“It all came together,” said Brant, whose stunning Black Beauty-like charge that he had ridden, Machitos Melody, had been named Best Playing Pony of the match. “We’re just getting started here [at the East Coast Open] and it’s the beginning of the tournament. I’m excited to see what is going to happen.”

According to Ruiz-Jorba, much of the magic surrounding this celebrated annual tournament that seemed to be in the air on this sunny afternoon was due to the fact that once again, it is being held at the beatific and storied GPC, known as a main U.S. headquarters for summer high-goal polo.

“It’s amazing here,” said Ruiz-Jorba. “I’ve been playing [at the GPC] for five years now and I love everything about it, especially the people and the whole [Greenwich] town and area. It’s very special.”

Spectators agreed.

“I feel like I’m in a movie,” said Angelique Poli, a Riverside resident who was attending her first-ever match at the GPC. “The players and horses are amazing; everyone has been so nice and this venue is beautiful. This has been an incredible experience.”

Naveen Bhosa of New York City, who, like Poli, was also attending her first-ever match at the GPC, agreed.

“It’s very exciting and I’m delighted to be here,” said Bhosa. “The horses, especially, are really agile and are just beautiful animals. It’s an amazing experience here all around.”

For more information on the Greenwich Polo Club matches and the 2019 East Coast Open, scheduled to be held through Sunday, Sept. 8, contact the GPC at: greenwichpoloclub.comPeople-Tag: Alessandro BazzoniAngelique PoliChristopher BrantIgnacio TocalinoJoaquin PaneloJohn DavisJohn Ferris RobbenMachitos MelodyMatias MagriniNaveen BhosaPeter BrantRuiz JorbaRuiz-Jorba Panelo

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