Ellerstina’s seven-goal loss to La Dolfina in the Tortugas Open final this weekend (12-5) was unfathomable unless you witnessed it first-hand. Ellerstina had been doing just fine in the tournament (2-0). They clobbered Cría Yatay 15-3 and in the virtual semi-finals clawed past a white-hot Alegría 11-10. And they made it to the final. Then along came La Dolfina and BAM!
So what happened Saturday on field 1 in Palermo?
You can’t chalk it up to any single factor, nor can you say Ellerstina didn’t show up. They did, and they never stopped trying. All told, the Z was swallowed up by a perfect storm named “Adolfo Pablo Juanma Pelón” that must have made Facundo Pieres feel like he was playing in a straightjacket. In all fairness, Facundo did well with what he was given to work with.
The game started tightly marked, but in the third chukker La Dolfina began to speed up the pace, spreading the field and using their passing attack to find Pablo MacDonough and Adolfo Cambiaso on the run. Those two were Gorilla Glue on Facundo the entire game. Still, Facundo managed to make all five of his team’s goals, which was pretty amazing, given that during open play he had very little time and space. He was often in the middle of the field, not involved around the action of the ball (almost as though playing a receiver who was rarely open).
With Facundo hemmed in, Ellerstina's offense primarily came from Nico Pieres and Polito Pieres, who struggled to maintain possession of the ball and get past the back line defense of Juan Martín Nero. Ellerstina began settling for long shots that had a low percentage chance of going in. Nico, Polito and Gonzalito Pieres together shot 0-for-8, which will never get it done against La Dolfina.
Ellerstina’s demise may have come from not making any adjustments the entire game against La Dolfina’s unceasing four-way pounce on Facundo. Ellerstina seemed content allowing Nico to start the offense and use Gonza and Polito on the pass. At times Polito seemed to hold the ball a bit too long and lost possession. Nico was not as on fire as he was this summer in England, and La Dolfina seemed happy letting him try to create plays. The results were turnovers and incomplete passes. Nonetheless, when Ellerstina forced La Dolfina into five fouls over the final three chukkers, Facundo made three goals from the penalty line.
This game was most likely an isolated blip on Ellerstina’s radar. The Piereses demonstrated in England this summer that they are fully capable of bouncing back (and then some). They resurrected King Power, who had been knocked out of the Cartier Queen’s Cup, to win the Jaeger-Le Coultre Gold Cup for the British Open.
Here’s what Ellerstina was up against Saturday:
THE LA DOLFINA ARSENAL
PABLO MAC DONOUGH: It was no surprise when the MVP award went to Pablo MacDonough. (He was Cambiaso’s top choice to play for Valiente this coming Florida season but had already committed to Dubai.) In the final MacDonough helped contain Facundo and was a key factor in attacks for La Dolfina, successfully receiving passes.
ADOLFO CAMBIASO: Adolfo was, well, Adolfo—enough said. He was game high-scorer with seven goals. One of his Cuartetera clones, known as B05, for the second consecutive year won the Argentine Polo Association award and the Argentine Polo Horse Breeders Association trophy for best-playing pony.
JUAN MARTÍN NERO: Juanma was exceptional on defense the entire game, keeping Ellerstina from getting in tight to goal. He was one of the biggest factors in stopping Ellerstina from building momentum. They trailed La Dolfina the entire game.
DAVID STIRLING: Pelón was a stone wall, defensively marking Polito Pieres and Gonzalito Pieres.
-La Dolfina outshot Ellerstina 22-11.
-La Dolfina won 16 throw-ins; Ellerstina 6.
-Ellerstina had 11 fouls. La Dolfina had 6.
-Ellerstina shot 2 for 11 (18%) from the field.
-Facundo Pieres made only two field goals. Nico, Gonza and Polito Pieres had 0-for-8 shooting combined.
Photos by Katerina Morgan