One win away from reaching the final of the 127th Abierto Argentino de Polo, 39-goal Ellerstina met 33-goal La Dolfina Polo Ranch in what became a match to remember on field 1 at Palermo. Facing an unforeseen three-goal deficit with just two chukkas remaining, Ellerstina fought back to force overtime and seal the unforgettable 14-13 victory on the golden goal by Nico Pieres. Earlier in the day Cria Geté captured the crucial 9-8 overtime victory over Los Machitos to enter the Repechaje Clasificacion in hopes of qualifying for the 2021 Triple Crown.
In one of the most thrilling matches in recent years, Ellerstina’s spot in the final was placed in doubt against an efficient La Dolfina Polo Ranch team that played well above their handicap to challenge the undefeated champions of the Tortugas and Hurlingham Opens. Shooting nearly 70% from the field, La Dolfina Polo Ranch took control of the game despite being outshot 27-13, forcing difficult opportunities in front of goal for Ellerstina. Converting three of their four penalties in the final two chukkas, Ellerstina mounted a comeback with a five-goal seventh chukka, led by Facundo Pieres who finished with a game-high seven goals. The outcome could have been decided on a single play, but ultimately the winning goal from Nico Pieres sent Ellerstina into a rematch against La Dolfina Saudi Polo Team.
Held without a shot in the first chukka, La Dolfina Polo Ranch faced a 2-1 deficit after field goals from Nico Pieres and Hilario Ulloa. Ellerstina’s lead evaporated due to foul trouble resulting in two penalty conversions for Diego Cavanagh and a 3-2 lead in favour of La Dolfina Polo Ranch. The back-and-forth match carried through the third chukka with the lead changing hands until the two teams were tied at 5-5. Held off the scoreboard in the final chukka of the first half, Ellerstina conceded a penalty 3 to Juan Britos and ended the half trailing 7-5 after Cavanagh’s fourth goal.
The strong defensive performance from La Dolfina Polo Ranch emerged as a story at the beginning of the second half as Ellerstina failed to score for the second consecutive chukka. Field goals for Guillermo Terrera and Britos extended La Dolfina Polo Ranch’s lead to four and leaving Ellerstina stunned with just three chukkas to produce a comeback. Responding with an organized defense of their own, Ellerstina controlled possession and limited La Dolfina Polo Ranch to just one shot over the sixth and seventh chukkas. The elite Ellerstina attack was displayed in a dominant seventh chukka, outscoring La Dolfina Polo Ranch 5-0 to quickly turn a three-goal deficit into a two-goal lead. Facundo Pieres scored four goals during the stretch, but La Dolfina Polo Ranch was determined to capture the upset. In a remarkable turn of events, the eighth chukka began with three goals on three shots for La Dolfina Polo Ranch, including back-to-back goals from Terrera as they retook the lead. A foul sent Facundo Pieres to the 40-yard line where he converted to tie the game at 13-13. With time expiring, Facundo Pieres had an open chance just yards in front of goal but sent the ball wide off the heel of his mallet forcing overtime to decide the last finalist.
The first opportunity went to Cavanagh on a long run to goal, but a bouncing ball forced the ball wide and returning possession to Ellerstina. Jumping on a loose ball, Facundo Pieres sent Nico Pieres on a breakway to goal under pressure from La Dolfina Polo Ranch. Moving the ball forward on his nearside, Nico Pieres converted the run and sent Ellerstina into the final with the golden goal and the exciting 14-13 victory.
Earlier in the day, Cria Geté was fighting for their first victory and to usurp La Irenita for a spot in the Repechaje Clasificacion. A defensive game against Los Machitos resulted in field goals being hard to come by as both teams finished below 30% from the field, but four goals from Cristian Laprida including the overtime-winning goal led Cria Geté to victory. Just one goal was scored in each of the first three chukkas, two of which came from the penalty line as Cria Geté held the narrow one-goal lead. Los Machitos raced into the lead behind the play of Santiago Toccalino, who scored three goals in the fourth chukka to give his team the 5-3 advantage.
Registering just one field goal for the rest of the game, Los Machitos were able to keep their lead thanks to a penalty 2 conversion for Santiago Toccalino matching the goal from Cria Geté. Inching closer, Cria Geté was able to bring the game even by the opening seconds of the seventh chukka on a penalty 3 conversion from Ignacio Laprida. Offense continued to come from the penalty line in the final moments, with Ignacio Laprida’s fourth goal leaving Cria Geté just moments from victory. Inside the final 30 seconds, Ignacio Toccalino was on the receiving end of a pass from Mariano Aguerre, sending the game into overtime. A minute and 55 seconds into the extra chukka, Cristian Laprida was the hero, converting from the field and securing Cria Geté’s first victory to replace La Irenita in the Repechaje Clasificacion.
Photo Credit: Matías Callejo / Prensa AAP
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Rankings 2021: Ellerstina Johor 1092; La Dolfina Saudi P.T. 912; RS Murus Sanctus 840; La Natividad Monjitas 808; LD Polo Ranch 616; La Ensenada La Aguada 548; y Los Machitos 560.