Saturday November 19 was the most expected day by any polo fan around the world. It was the day of the championship match of the Argentine Open, at Palermo, the Cathedral, and another edition of the derby of polo, the clash between the multiple champions La Dolfina Saudi and the unbeaten Ellerstina, the latter with the great possibility ahead not only to claim the trophy that eluded them since 2012, but also to win the Triple Crown. Two teams who had a completely different 2020 season, indeed – on one side, Ellerstina hired a new boy, Hilario Ulloa, and became the best team of the season so far, with all four members fitting within each other to perfection. On the other side, La Dolfina Saudi, a foursome who had to overcome several troubles due to unexpected injuries, that saw the four of them playing together for the first time at Palermo. And moreover – despite they lost to RS Murus Sanctus in the league stage, they managed to find their best form and reach the final.
In such a challenging year, Palermo, had a very different final as well, ruled by strict protocols, hygiene and social distancing measures, only allowing 10% of spectators in the grandsstands, that included the ever present flags of Uruguay, cheering for their fellow countryman, pride and joy, Pelón Stirling. But what counts is that the goal was achieved – although shorter, the Triple Crown in Argentina was underway.
With regards to the match of the year, a new edition of the clash between the two dominating teams of the world, Ellerstina had a better start on this windy Saturday afternoon at Palermo. Following a penalty conversion by Adolfo Cambiaso, the Pieres-Ulloa foursome earned a 2-1 advantage with two goals by Facundo Pieres. La Dolfina Saudi took the lead, 3-2, by the end of the second chukka, widening the gap to 6-3, thanks to Adolfo Cambiaso’s accuracy when it came to penalty conversions. But before stepping into half time, Ellerstina made a comeback, and Facundo Pieres produced two spectacular goals, to close the gap to a narrow 5-6.
Following a scoreless fifth chukka, Hilario Ulloa, who played one of his best matches since his arrival to Ellerstina, produced a neckshot to tie a 6-all with 4 minutes in the clock, the single goal within the chukka, in a very hard fought match and, as expected, tough and very even. The expectations about what would come up in the remaining chukkas was very big. And it is worth noting that La Dolfina remained scoreless since the third chukka, when Adolfo Cambiaso converted a corner. They only resurfaced once again halfway in the seventh chukka, when Pablo MacDonough converted a 40-yards penalty, to re-gain the lead, 7-6. However, Ellerstina replied quickly – a spectacular play by Facundo Pieres ended up in a neckshot goal by his brother Gonzalito. And a couple of red-hot minutes would follow next – first, when Hilario Ulloa hit a powerful backhander to avoid a goal by Adolfo Cambiaso; and then through Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres, who scored one goal apiece to give Ellerstina a tight 8-7 lead with only one chukka remaining.
And what a last chukka! Within two minutes in the clock, Juan Martín Nero tied at 8-all. A 30-yards penalty conversion by Pablo MacDonough followed, to put La Dolfina Saudi back on the lead, 9-8. And while Ellerstina struggled to tie again, Adolfo Cambiaso picked the ball, run as quick as possible, to put the ice on the cake and scored to make it at 10-8. With less than one minute remaining, nor luck neither time was on Ellerstina’s side in order to achieve their goal.
Eight times La Dolfina, eight Argentine Open in a row for them; no matter the pandemic, the injuries, the doubts about whether Juan Martín Nero would be able to play Palermo; despite all the trouble, the obstacles, the complications of a tough year for them, they managed to make it again.
Eight times La Dolfina at Palermo, their “home”, where they feel at their best; that same place where the Fab Four played together for the first time this 2020. And they achieved what many thought almost impossible.
Only one big question remains – after ten glorious years, could this match be the farewell of the Fab Four? Perhaps we will have an anwer in the following days. At the moment, just enjoy this team, a real living legend.
LA DOLFINA SAUDI 10-8 ELLERSTINA
La Dolfina Saudi: Adolfo Cambiaso 10 (6 goals, three penalties, one corner), David Stirling 10, Pablo Mac Donough 10 (3 penalties), Juan Martín Nero 10 (1). Total: 40.
Ellerstina Johor: Facundo Pieres 10 (6) (received a yellow card in the third chukka), Hilario Ulloa 10 (1), Gonzalo Pieres Jr. 9 (1), Nicolás Pieres 10. Total: 39.
Score La Dolfina Saudi: 1-2, 3-2, 6-3, 6-5, 6-5, 6-6, 7-8, 10-8.
Umpires: Guillermo Villanueva and Martín Pascual. Third Man: Gastón Lucero.
Gonzalo Heguy MVP Award: Adolfo Cambiaso.
Javier Novillo Astrada Award to the Top Scorer of the Tournament: Adolfo Cambiaso, 45 goals.
Rubén Sola Young Player Award: Jerónimo del Carril.
Fomento Equino Cup to the best mounted player of the final: Adolfo Cambiaso.
Gonzalo Tanoira Award to the best mounted player of the tournament: Adolfo Cambiaso.
Fair Play Award: David Stirling.
Lady Susan Townley BPP Award: Dolfina B09 Cuartetera Clone. Player: Adolfo Cambiaso.
BPP Polo Argentino and BPP Sociedad Rural Argentina: Dolfina B06 Cuartetera Clon. Player: Adolfo Cambiaso.