Audi, Bendabout, Las Monjitas score opening wins
By Alex Webbe
Three 26-goal games at the International Polo Club in Wellington kicked off the 107th United States Open Championship Saturday with the final leg of poloâ€™s Triple Crown up for grabs.
Audi was coming off a tournament performance with its recent win in the finals of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup and had their lineup intact. Pony Express suffered the loss of team captain Bob Daniels and was forced to replace him with a talented Maureen Brennan, who was put to the test from the onset.
Gonzalito Pieres scored the opening goal of the contest but Argentine 9-goaler Santiago Chavanne scored a goal from the field to tie it up for Pony Express at 1-1 in the first chukker.
Gonzalito Pieres put Audi on top, 2-1 in the second, but Pony Express responded with goals from Bautista Heguy (a penalty conversion) and a goal from the field from Juan Garcia Grossi for a 3-2 lead. Gonzalito Pieres made it all even at 3-3 with his third goal of the contest, but Heguy scored on a penalty goal for Pony Express to end the period. After two chukkers of play, Audi trailed 4-3.
A resolute Audi team returned to the field for the fourth chukker and scored consecutive goals from Gonzalito Pieres (on a drop pass from Andrade), Nico Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade. Audi held the first two goal lead of the day, 6-4. An energized Pony Express attack had Heguy scoring the final goal of the chukker for a 6-5 halftime advantage to Audi.
Shutout defense and a pair of goals from Gonzalito Pieres highlighted a fourth chukker that had Pony Express struggling to break through the Audi defense. At the end of the fourth chukker Audi held a comfortable 8-5 advantage.
Seven more minutes of frustration followed in the fifth period while Nico Pieres put on a show, scoring three times as Audi extended their lead to six goals, 11-5.
With everything going right for Audi, Gonzalito Pieres made it 12-5 with his seventh goal of the contest. Grossi answered back with a goal of his own for Pony Express, 12-6. Gonzalito scored again for Audi, 13-6, with Heguy scoring the final two goals of the game from the penalty line for a 13-8 final score and Audi victory.
â€œThey came out with everything they had in the first half,â€ said Gonzalito, â€œand you never know how youâ€™re going to play after a big tournament win (Piaget Gold Cup).
â€œIt was the worst game Iâ€™ve ever played,â€ said Audi team captain Marc Ganzi, who took the field with a 103 degree temperature, â€œbut weâ€™ll get better.â€
Audi looked pretty impressive today, but itâ€™s only day one of the tournament.
BENDABOUT 12, ORCHARD HILL 11
Orchard Hill scored three of the first four goals in the contest, taking an early 3-1 lead.
Two goals from Lucas Criado and a single goal from the field from 10-goaler Pablo MacDonough were countered by a single penalty conversion from Julio Arellano in first chukker action as Orchard Hill rode off the field at the end of the first chukker with a two goal, 2-1 advantage.
Bendabout reclaimed the game in the second chukker, combining an offense that put three goals on the scoreboard with a defense that completely shut down the Orchard attack. Two more penalty conversions from Arellano and a goal from the field from Sugar Erskine had Bendabout ahead, 4-3.
The Bendabout rush continued into the third period with goals from team captain Gillian Johnston, Erskine and Magoo Laprida. Orchard Hill managed a single goal from Criado but trailed 7-4 at the end of the first half.
Orchard Hill rallied in the fourth chukker with three goals from MacDonough and a goal from Hector Galindo. Laprida scored his second goal of the contest and the chukker ended in a 9-9 tie.
Fears of a major Orchard Hill comeback kept Bendabout alert throughout the fifth chukker. Another goal from Johnston gave Bendabout a brief 9-8 lead, but MacDonough evened it up again for a 9-9 deadlock after five chukkers.
Bendabout drew first blood in the sixth and final chukker on consecutive goals from Arellano and Erskine for an 11-9 lead. MacDonoughâ€™s sixth goal of the game cut the Bendabout lead to a single goal, 11-10 lead once again. Bendabout continued to attack the Orchard Hill goal, and Orchard Hill appeared to have no answers.
Following a scoring drive, Orchard Hillâ€™s Hector Galindo attempted to back the ball out of the goal mouth when Erskine batted the ball out of the air and put it through for a 12-10 lead. Bendabout fouled in the final :58 of the year for the teamâ€™s twelfth goal of the match.
Following a foul, MacDonough converted a 40-yard penalty shot for the teamâ€™s final scoring effort and a 12-11 Bendabout win.
â€œItâ€™s an ugly win,â€ said Gillian Johnstonâ€™s father and former Chairman of the United States Polo Association, â€œbut weâ€™ll take it.
LAS MONJITAS 12, VALIENTE 11
Agustin Merlos scored a game high nine goals, including the game winner in the final chukker of its 12-11 US Open win over Valiente.
Valiente got first chukker goals from Nacho Astrada and Miguel Astrada, but three goals from Las Monjitas 9-goaler Agustin Merlos had Valiente trailing 3-2 after the opening chukker.
Valiente roared back in the second frame, picking up two more goals from Nacho Astrada and a single goal from Miguel Astrada. The Las Monjitas attack was limited to a single 60-yard penalty conversion from Merlos and after two, Valiente led 5-4.
Single goals from the Astrada brothers in the third were countered by three goals from Las Monjitas. Santiago Toccalino picked up his first goal of the game for Las Monjitas while Merlos converted two more penalty shots for goals. With fourteen points on the scoreboard, the score was tied at 7-7 at the end of the first half.
Toccalino put Las Monjitas ahead with a goal in the fourth, but Valiente countered with goals from Nacho Astrada and Polito Pieres. The chukker ended with Valiente holding a narrow 9-8 advantage.
Pieres and Nacho Astrada added single goals in the fifth, but Merlos drove in two more goals and Eduardo Astrada (brother to both Miguel and Nacho) scored once. At the end of five periods of play it was all even at 11-11.
Defense took the field in the sixth, with neither side being able to break through the opposing defenders. Finally, it was a Valiente miscue that put Merlos at the penalty line once more, and he connected on a scoring shot for the 12-11 win.