La Indiana and Murus Sanctus Victorious on Day 1 of King Power Gold Cup
The prestigious King Power Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship began with two exciting matches at Cowdray Park Polo Club, with La Indiana defeating Monterosso 13-8 and Murus Sanctus narrowly defeating VS King Power 12-11.
The opening match of the tournament featured last year’s finalist La Indiana producing a strong match due to a relentless attack that placed the Monterosso defence under immense pressure in front of their own goal. Receiving four Penalty 2 attempts, La Indiana’s Facundo Pieres finished an accurate 6 for 7 from the penalty line to finish with an impressive 10-goal performance in the victory. A quick start from Monterosso saw an effective interplay led by Ignacio Toccalino, who scored two goals and set up Joaquin Pittaluga to give Monterosso the early lead. La Indiana responded with the duo of Facundo Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade, as they worked effectively to combine for two La Indiana goals in the opening chukka, while Marc Ganzi made his debut for the season, playing in place of the injured Michael Bickford. A quick pace continued into the following chukka, with La Indiana gaining momentum by controlling possession to produce five shots at goal, yet were unable to convert any of the attempts, leaving Monterosso in the lead. Despite missing their chances from the field, La Indiana’s relentless attack led to foul trouble for Monterosso, resulting in four penalty goals before the end of the half, giving La Indiana the 8-6 lead.
In what proved to be a crucial chukka in the game, La Indiana extended their lead further in the fourth chukka, with Monterosso’s struggles defensively leading to two more penalty goals off the mallet of Pieres. Trailing by four goals, Monterosso’s Toccalino and Pittaluga kept their team within reach, alternating field goals to match La Indiana’s potent offense from the field, but the seven penalty attempts conceded to Pieres proved to be their downfall. Pieres secured the victory for La Indiana with his ninth and tenth goals of the game in the final chukka, while keeping Monterosso off the scoreboard in a defensive final chukka to complete the 13-8 victory.
The second match of the day between Murus Sanctus and VS King Power began with a moment of silence for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, as both teams honoured the late King Power owner. Once play began, it was clear the two teams were evenly matched with VS King Power holding the early advantage due to efficient shooting from the penalty line. Despite trailing after each of the first four chukkas, Murus Sanctus fought their way back into the game by dominating the throw-in line and converting six of their final seven shot attempts, thanks to a balanced attack that saw at least two field goals from Gonzalito Pieres, Facundo Sola and newcomer Martin Podesta in the victory.
An exciting opening chukka produced efficient polo from both teams with VS King Power gaining the slight advantage behind three throw-in wins for Marcos Di Paola, leading to field goals for Juan Martin Zubia and Di Paola as part of a three-goal opening chukka. The end-to-end play continued throughout the remainder of the first half, yet zero field goals were scored by both teams on a combined 10 shots in a tightly marked contest. VS King Power extended their lead to two behind four penalty goals from Polito Pieres, including a Penalty 5 conversion from distance to give VS King Power the 6-4 lead.
Murus Sanctus’ struggles from the field continued into the start of the second half, failing to score in open play for the third consecutive chukka. With two assists to begin the half, Zubia ignited the VS King Power offense, setting up Di Paola and Pieres for field goals, giving VS King Power a convincing three-goal advantage with just two chukkas remaining. The changed in the fifth chukka with Murus Sanctus racing back into the game, with Martin Podesta playing a distributor role, finding Facundo Sola and Gonzalito Pieres on the run as part of an impressive five-goal fifth chukka that saw them win all six throw-ins to tie the score at 10-10. A thrilling final chukka had the spectators on the edge of their seats, with Polito Pieres restoring the tie with little time remaining. On the following throw-in, Sola adeptly stole the ball at midfield, running it through the goal inside the final minute to send Murus Sanctus to the exciting 12-11 victory.