Two intense games kicked off the 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship at Cowdray Park Polo Club yesterday. Murus Sanctus took home the Carlos Gracida Memorial trophy, defeating Talandracas 9-8 in the opening game. El Remanso went all out against La Bamba de Areco for an 11-9 victory in a game that was an even closer contest than the final tally reflected.
If you didn’t know better you’d have thought you were watching a final between El Remanso and La Bamba de Areco. In a fast, physical game that drew a couple of yellow cards, El Remanso made it their mission to stop Diego Cavanagh at all costs. While they didn’t succeed completely, they held him at bay often enough to limit the damage Cavanagh can virtually always be counted on to incur.
El Remanso capitalized on the exceptional team defense they perfected in the Cartier Queens Cup. This was most evident by their work on Cavanagh, who was smothered throughout the game and had an extremely difficult time breaking away. James Beim in particular put in solid defensive work on him, keeping Cavanagh—a perennial goal-making machine—to only 3 attempts and 2 goals.
But El Remanso picked their poison. Their focus on Cavanagh allowed Magoo Laprida to have more impact on the game. He filled the gap, making 6 of 8 shots from the field and tying James Harper as game high-scorer. Laprida had some stunning moments in the last two chukkas with back-to-back goals. He tied the game at 7 at the close of the fifth, never skipping a beat when the ball deflected off the post and ricocheted at him. He sent it right back to where it came from, but this time put it in. At the top of the final chukka he came through with a torso-wrenching goal shot, not only plucking the ball out of the air but having to reach far behind himself to bag it. That gave La Bamba an 8-7 lead.
Soon the scales tipped in El Remanso’s favor. Ollie Cudmore retied the game at 8, after which El Remanso benefitted from an automatic goal on a penalty 1. Rodrigo Rueda levelled the score again, but time ran out for La Bamba. Charlie Hanbury, an attacking force throughout the game, had the final say. He scored from the field and then opened up a hole for James Harper and defended him on a long run into goal, clinching the 11-9 victory.
All told, La Bamba de Areco could have taken the day. They were hot on the ball throughout the game, outgunning El Remanso on throw-ins 18-7, but they couldn’t take advantage of those extra possessions to create more shots. Although La Bamba de Areco had the slight edge in open play, converting their shots at 64% (9 of 14) compared to only 46% for El Remanso, fouls were their undoing. They went 0-for-2 on their penalty shots and handed 7 penalty attempts to El Remanso, who converted 5 of them. The goals from penalties were what ultimately gave El Remanso the edge and the win.
Caset’s stallion, “Popular” (out of the legendary “Cuartetera”) was named Best Playing Pony.
Murus Sanctus Takes Down Talandracas 11-9
The rosters for both teams in the Talandracas/Murus Sanctus match ended up a tad different than they were in the Queen’s Cup. Talandracas knew their situation ahead of time, while Murus Sanctus had to deal with a shuffle during the game. Talandracas had already enlisted veteran Hugo Lewis (three-time Gold Cup winner with King Power) to play this tournament in place of Jack Hyde. Murus Sanctus’ line-up changed in the first chukka, when Francisco Elizalde stepped in for Facundo Sola. Chipper before the game, Sola walked around bumping fists with passers-by. However, an existing ankle infection soon proved too painful for him to continue play.
It was evident from the get-go that Hilario Ulloa knew he’d have to step it up without Sola, his steadfast scoring companion for Murus Sanctus. Even moreso than he did in the Queens Cup, Ulloa quarterbacked his team and controlled the flow of play. He went a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and 1-for-1 from the penalty line. He also found he could rely on Elizalde, who had a very strong game while providing Ulloa with solid support. Elizade engaged in a few tangos with Sapo Caset, outrunning him (never an easy thing to do) en route to scoring in the fifth chukka and stretching Murus Sanctus’ lead to 3 goals (8-5).
From the moment Lewis stepped onto the field he infused the game with instant energy and provided a good offensive presence for Talandracas. Seven heads spun around like something out of “The Exorcist” when Lewis effortlessly outran everyone on the field, tying the game at 4 at the end of the first half. He and Caset finished as Talandracas’ high-scorers, each with 3 goals on the day.
A combined 6 fouls total created a fast-paced game decided in open play. Ulloa and Caset drove each other crazy from start to finish, engaging in warp-speed ride-offs and winning equal numbers. Each of them scored on ridiculously angled neck shots, Ulloa in the first chukka and Caset in the third. But overall Caset found himself struggling from the field, uncharacteristically shooting just 1 for 5. Such missed opportunities for Talandracas (who shot only 43%) made the difference in the result.
Murus Sanctus had strong second and fourth chukkas, outscoring Talandracas 6-1 in those two periods. Talandracas lost the game in the last chukkas as they only made 2 of their final 7 shots at goal, ending the game 11-9 for Murus Sanctus.
The Gold Cup continues today with two games: King Power Foxes v. La Indiana at noon (Ambersham field 3), and RH Polo v. Monterosso Polo Team at 2 p.m. (Brooks). All times are British summer time (BST).
All games in the tournament are being live streamed on pololine.tv by polocam.tv
Full game schedule can be found here.
All photography by Snoopy Productions.