Ellerstina Advances to Hurlingham Open Final
The first finalist in the 2019 Hurlingham Open was determined as Ellerstina defeated La Dolfina Polo Ranch 14-7 to remain unbeaten and await the winner of La Dolfina and Las Monjitas on Sunday. Earlier in the day, La Albertina/Abu Dhabi won an overtime thriller 16-15 over La Aguada at Hurlingham Polo Club.
In a game that was tied after each of the final four chukkas, La Aguada and La Albertina/Abu Dhabi battled into overtime in a match that was fought on the penalty line. Receiving a combined 21 penalty attempts in the game, La Albertina/Abu Dhabi held the slight edge converting 9 of their 11 attempts compared to 7 of 10 penalty shooting from La Aguada. Led by eight goals from Agustin Merlos, including the overtime winning goal, La Albertina/Abu Dhabi claimed the thrilling victory.
Trading Penalty 2 goals to open the game it was La Albertina/Abu Dhabi that took control in the early stages of the game behind a 4-1 run that was highlighted by the play of Merlos, who added two goals and an assist during the stretch in a fast-paced running attack. Trailing by one goal at the end of the second chukka, La Aguada re-organized and held the momentum throughout a dominant third chukka that resulted in four unanswered goals. Scoring three goals in a four-minute period, Lucas Diaz Alberdi ignited the La Aguada offense to an 8-5 lead, the largest at any point in the game. A swift response from La Albertina/Abu Dhabi came from the penalty line when four La Aguada fouls resulted in three penalty goals, erasing the three-goal lead and leaving the score tied at 9-9 at halftime.
The second half displayed the evenly matched affair with La Albertina/Abu Dhabi and La Aguada alternating the first nine goals of the second half. With neither team able to generate consecutive goals, the immense pressure entering the final chukka was focused on the penalty line, especially on La Aguada’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada who accounted for four penalty goals over the final three chukkas. Tied at 13-13, La Aguada finally broke through at the beginning of the seventh chukka with consecutive goals, one each from Alfredo Bigatti and Alejandro Novillo Astrada placing them just five minutes away from victory. In the next two minutes, Merlos converted two penalty 2’s, sending the game into overtime. Pressuring the La Aguada goal, La Albertina/Abu Dhabi had multiple chances in overtime but after a backhand from Francisco Elizalde placed the ball in front of goal, Merlos scored his eighth goal of the game to secure the 16-15 victory.
The second game of the day was crucial in the standings with an Ellerstina win sending them to the finals, while a loss would create a three-way tie. Never trailing throughout the game, Ellerstina was led by seven goals and three assists from Facundo Pieres who utilized a position change to #1 and increase his activity at the front of the game to overwhelm La Dolfina Polo Ranch. With identical 50% shooting from the field and 100% shooting from the penalty line, it was Ellerstina’s ability to create offense, outshooting La Dolfina Polo Ranch 22-8 that resulted in the convincing 14-7 victory.
Setting the tone for the game, Facundo Pieres scored from 80 yards out just 45 seconds from the first throw-in to give Ellerstina the quick lead. The possession remained with Ellerstina, evident by the large 16-3 shot advantage in the first half as Polito Pieres also contributed offensively with two field goals. Despite dominating possession, La Dolfina Polo Ranch remained within reach behind two penalty goals from Diego Cavanagh. Scoring his third goal of the game on a shot from distance, Cavanagh accounted for all three La Dolfina Polo Ranch goals in the first half, with his team facing a four-goal deficit.
Struggling to score from the field, La Dolfina Polo Ranch’s offense slowed when an improved discipline from Ellerstina kept them off the penalty line. Three consecutive goals from Ellerstina was a result of accurate passes from Facundo Pieres, assisting on both goals in the fifth chukka. Increasing their lead to seven, Ellerstina managed the lead effectively by continuing to limit the opportunities of La Dolfina Polo Ranch. Securing the victory in the final chukka, two penalty conversions from Facundo Pieres brought his goal total to seven and sent Ellerstina into the finals with the 14-7 victory.