So far the 2017 Cartier Queen’s Cup has been a déjà vu experience—and a welcome one—for La Indiana. Saturday at Guards Polo Club they took down Talandracas 13-8, racking up a second victory on the heels of their 14-10 win over Monterosso three days earlier.
If you didn’t know better you’d have thought you were watching a rerun of a La Indiana match from last year, when the “new kids on the block” turned conventional wisdom on its head. Widely underestimated, La Indiana made it to the finals of both the 2016 Queen’s Cup and Gold Cup. It must have felt great then, but this year it put a lot of pressure on the team to prove that last year’s performance wasn’t a fluke.
“We got those first-game jitters out of the way, but we knew today was going to be tough,” said La Indiana’s Nic Roldan. “Going against a team like Talandracas that has those two powerhouses (Sapo Caset and Pelon Stirling) in the middle is always tough.” Caset and Stirling combined for 3 of 7 shooting from the field.
La Indiana was also packing heat, with Roldan and Tincho Merlos jointly shooting 9 of 13. Luke Tomlinson’s solid job in the back freed them up to launch assaults on goal that were next to impossible to stop. La Indiana’s strong passing style made for fast polo, while Caset and Stirling tended to hold the ball a bit more. Both styles were effective, but what made the difference was La Indiana’s ability to transition from defense to offense in a flash. As soon they got possession, they’d hit a backhand and be off and running.
However, Caset was equally as effective with his well-known backhand. In the third chukka, which opened with Talandracas trailing only by 2, he foiled a string of La Indiana possessions with back shots. A big chunk of the chukka was all Caset, who scored consecutively from the field and the penalty line, as well as mercilessly chasing down Roldan as “The American” (as the announcer like to call Roldan) scampered to goal. A Caset goal brought Talandracas within a single goal of La Indiana (5-4), but the near-parity didn’t last long.
La Indiana made three consecutive goals in the fourth chukka and dominated the rest of the game. When they were 7 goals ahead (13-6), it was clear they had decided to save their horses (which will get a week off, as La Indiana doesn’t play again until next Saturday). Stirling and Tomlinson each got in a goal in the sixth, tightening the gap to 5 to end the game 13-8.
SIFANI EDGES OUT LA BAMBA
Earlier in the day Sifani defeated La Bamba de Areco 11-8 in a more evenly paced game, with the score tied at 5 at halftime. Sifani got the edge in the second half, driven by high-scorer Julian de Lusarreta (8 goals on the day). With both teams pushing for goals, it could have been a much higher-scoring match but for their mutual skill in making saves on the doorstep.
Diego Cavanagh demonstrated why he was recently raised to 9 in the U.S., leading La Bamba de Areco’s scoring with 3 goals and 5 throw-in wins. Cavanagh was the team’s offensive presence, but at the same time he was a terror on defense, stopping John Paul Clarkin and other Sifani players in their tracks. Throughout the match it seemed to be La Bamba de Areco’s strategy to use Laprida to set up Cavanagh, with the two playing an effective passing game.
With just a 2-goal difference going into the final chukka (8-6 for Sifani), both sides went for the win with attempted hero shots, which were largely unsuccessful. Sifani took the win 11-8.
The Cartier Queen’s Cup continues Sunday with a double-header. Monterosso plays Sommelier at noon, and RH Polo opposes King Power Foxes at 3 p.m. All times are British Summer Time (BST).
Complete game schedule is available here.
Livestream coverage of all Queen’s Cup games and Gold Cup games, provided by PoloCam through PoloLine, is available here.
All Photography by Helen Cruden