The opening day of play in the 2019 Hurlingham Open began with a thrilling 10-8 victory for La Dolfina Polo Ranch over La Aguada, while Ellerstina, who was missing Facundo Pieres, defeated La Albertina Abu Dhabi 13-9 at the Hurlingham Polo Club.
A back and forth defensive game left little room for error between La Dolfina Polo Ranch and la Aguada as they battled into the final chukka. Despite a heavy advantage on the throw-in line, La Aguada ran into an organized La Dolfina Polo Ranch defense that forced difficult attacks throughout the game. The game was decided in the final chukkas when La Dolfina Polo Ranch’s defense stood tall, keeping La Aguada off the scoreboard while converting from the penalty line to capture the two-goal victory.
An evenly matched opening chukka with both teams tightly marked set the tone for the game, with a tough nearside neckshot from Lucas Diaz Alberdi opening the scoring for La Aguada. Before the conclusion of the first chukka, La Dolfina Polo Ranch responded with two goals in quick succession, one each from Juan Britos and Diego Cavanagh to hold an early one-goal lead. Continuing to exchange goals over the following two chukkas, La Aguada was led by the play of Alejandro Novillo Astrada on a Penalty 4 conversion and goal from the field to end the third chukka, restore a tied score at 5-5. Producing back-to-back goals in the final minute of the fourth chukka, including their third penalty goal, La Aguada edged ahead 7-6 to conclude the first half.
The closely fought affair continued into the second half with multiple runs consisting of two defenders swarming the ball to prevent the attack. The defensive style of game saw just three combined goals over the fifth and sixth chukkas, with La Dolfina Polo Ranch bringing the game back into a tie after a penalty 4 conversion from Diego Cavanagh. Entering the final chukka tied 8-8, Cavanagh missed a penalty conversion in the opening minute, but redeemed himself on a Penalty 2 conversion that ended up being the winning goal in the narrow 10-8 victory over La Aguada.
The dynamic of the second match changed with the notable absence of 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, who was replaced by Lucas James to bring Ellerstina’s handicap advantage to just four goals against a determined La Albertina Abu Dhabi line-up. With all eight players on the field scoring at least two goals each, the balance resulted in a fast, passing game that was ultimately controlled by Ellerstina. Led by the duo of Gonzalito and Nico Pieres, Ellerstina dominated the middle of the game, outscoring their opponents 6-2 during the fourth and fifth chukkas, with the four-goal advantage being the difference in the 13-9 victory.
La Albertina Abu Dhabi came out strong, with Agustin Merlos scoring 30 seconds into the game on a near impossible neckshot from the corner to opening the scoring. Trailing 2-1 after a converted penalty from Alfredo Cappella, Ellerstina responded with second chukka that saw them maintain the majority of possession behind goals from James and Polito Pieres to grab the 3-2 lead. La Albertina Abu Dhabi fought to keep pace with Ellerstina, utilizing constant backhands and a passing attack to start their attack but Ellerstina edged further ahead, holding a narrow 7-5 lead at halftime.
A decisive chukka in the game, Ellerstina dominated the beginning of the second half, scoring two goals inside the first minute to quickly increase their two-goal lead to four, leaving La Albertina Abu Dhabi scrambling to close the deficit. A second penalty conversion in the chukka for Nico Pieres capped a 3-0 chukka in favour of Ellerstina that resulted in a commanding five-goal lead with just two chukkas to play. Gonzalito Pieres transitioned to the back of the game to prevent a quick attack from La Albertina Abu Dhabi, making their opponents work for every chance. The disciplined Ellerstina team kept La Albertina Abu Dhabi off the penalty line in the late stages of the game, to maintain their lead and complete the 13-9 victory as they seek to defend their Hurlingham Open title.