After yet another rain delay in one of the swampiest Argentine polo seasons in recent memory, the Hurlingham Open is set to begin today with four games. The 10 teams are coming off the Tortugas Open and the Torneo Remonta y Veterinaria. Here’s a look at what their performances to date say about what we can look forward to in the second leg of the 2017 Triple Crown.
ZONE A: ELLERSTINA, LA AGUADA LAS MONJITAS, CRÍA YATAY, LA DOLFINA II, LA ESQUINA LOS MACHITOS
ELLERSTINA - Zone A is headlined by defending champion 39-goal Ellerstina, coming off wins in their first two games in the Triple Crown. After a convincing 15-3 victory over Cría Yatay, Ellerstina held on for a close victory over Alegría, thanks to a 9-goal contribution from Facundo Pieres. Balanced from top to bottom, Ellerstina uses their offensive firepower and skill to outscore their opponents. New 10-goaler Nico Pieres has been impressive early on, providing stability defensively while starting the attack by finding his teammates with the pass.
LA AGUADA LAS MONJITAS – Thirty-one-goal La Aguada Las Monjitas will consist of a trio of Novillo Astradas and newcomer Alfredo Bigatti, unless Eduardo Novillo Astrada, who subbed out with an injury in Tortugas, is back. He said he expected to return for Hurlingham, but we won’t know until shortly before the game. Bigatti was a bright spot for La Aguada in the Tortugas Open, finishing with 11 goals in two games to lead the team. The defensive work of Miguel Novillo Astrada and Ignacio Novillo Astrada has freed up Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Bigatti to lead the attack.
An impressive opener in Tortugas against La Irenita saw La Aguada LM dominate from start to finish for the 17-8 victory, but it was turned on its head when they encountered the juggernaut that is La Dolfina, who defeated them 16-9 in the semi-finals. La Aguada LM’s success in the Hurlingham Open will depend upon their ability to defend the passing attack and convert the chances that are presented to them.
CRÍA YATAY – A semi-finalist in last year’s Argentine Open, Cría Yatay came into this season with high expectations. After a strong showing in the first Tortugas game that saw them narrowly lose to Alegría, Cría Yatay struggled to find their offensive footing against Ellerstina. Led by Joaquin Pittaluga’s 10 goals, the issue for Cría Yatay has been their ineffective shooting, with a team shooting percentage of 29%. That number will need to dramatically increase if Cría Yatay wants to be competitive with the top teams in the Hurlingham Open.
LA DOLFINA II – The teamcomes off the Torneo Remonta y Veterinaria with a 2-1 record. La Dolfina II, consisting of Diego Cavanagh, Guillermo Terrera, Alejo Taranco and Ignatius du Plessis, was tied for the lowest scoring rate at nine goals per game. (The top two teams averaged 11.3 and 11.7). However, La Dolfina II held their opponents to 9.0 goals per game, which was tied for the best. They won two of three games behind strong defense.
The offensive prowess of Cavanagh was evident in the USA and UK this season, with him trailing only Facundo Pieres in the USA with 92 total goals. In order to match up to their higher-rated opponents, La Dolfina II will need the offensive performance seen from Cavanagh and Terrera when they are at their best.
LA ESQUINA LOS MACHITOS – The team is led by 8-goalers Mariano Aguerre and Rodrigo Andrade. Defense was an area of concern in their recent tournament, allowing 11.3 goals per game, but the team possesses enough offensive ability with Pascual S. de Vicuna and Rodrigo Rueda complementing the two 8-goalers. They finished the Torneo Remonta y Veterinaria with a 1-2 record.
ZONE B: LA DOLFINA, ALEGRÍA, LA IRENITA, LA ALBERTINA ABU DHABI, CHAPALEUFU
LA DOLFINA - La Dolfina highlights Zone B as their opponents look to challenge the quartet of 10-goalers. The story in the Tortugas Open has been La Dolfina’s balanced passing attack, with all four players finding the scoresheet equally. Adolfo Cambiaso leads the way with 11 goals, followed by Pablo MacDonough and David Stirling with nine goals each and Juan Martín Nero with seven. The potential for any of the four players to lead the way offensively or defensively makes La Dolfina a match-up nightmare for any team.
ALEGRÍA - The top contender to challenge La Dolfina in Zone B is Alegría’s four-man team consisting of Sapo Caset, Hilario Ulloa, Facundo Sola and Fred Mannix. After trailing by eight goals at one point in their game against Ellerstina, Alegría fought all the way back to narrowly lose (11-10), but their performance proved that Alegría has the potential to upset La Dolfina. Since becoming a 10-goaler, Ulloa has been an offensive force and proved that in the Tortugas Open, scoring 10 goals in the first game. With Mannix protecting defensively, it allows his three teammates the freedom to attack and rattle their opponents.
LA IRENITA – The team is looking to rebound from their two opening games in the Tortugas Open that saw them fall short to La Aguada and La Dolfina. Consisting of a balanced 31-goal team, La Irenita seemed unable to prevent the offensive attack of their opponents, allowing 37 goals in their opening two games while only scoring 14 themselves. Matias MacDonough has led the way, scoring seven of those 14 goals but success in the Hurlingham Open for La Irenita will come down to their ability to defend and turn that into offensive chances.
LA ALBERTINA ABU DHABI - La Albertina Abu Dhabi finished with a 2-1 record in the Torneo Remonta y Veterinaria with a strong offensive performance, averaging 11.3 goals over their three games. However, their success lay in their ability to hold their opponents to nine goals per game. The four eight-goalers, consisting of UK season standouts Ignacio Toccalino and Santiago Toccalino, along with Alfredo Cappella and Francisco Elizalde, provide Abu Dhabi with long hitters in the back end. Toccalino led his Monterosso team with 47 goals during the UK high-goal season, while Elizalde tied for eighth in scoring during his run with Habtoor in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup.
CHAPALEUFU - Chapaleufu finished with a 1-2 record in their previous competition, scoring a tournament-leading 11.7 goals per game. However, they gave up goals at the same rate of 11.7, resulting in the two losses. Julian de Lusarreta and Ezequiel Ferrario join Argentine Triple Crown veterans Alberto Heguy and Eduardo Heguy to form a 30-goal team that promises an exciting style of play. A strong 2017 season for de Lusarreta with Coca-Cola in the U.S. saw him finish with 53 goals, all from the field, providing Chapaleufu with a player often playing above his 7-goal rating. The aggressive style of Ferrario also bodes well for his team as they look to disrupt and upset their higher-rated opponents.