Wednesday’s second game in the Argentine Open was a close call with big consequences for Ellerstina Johor as they inched closer to securing a spot in the semi-finals. In one of the tightest and most surprising games of the season, La Dolfina Polo Ranch put them through the mill. Ellerstina escaped with a 12-11 win.
Early on things were looking good for Ellerstina. They started running away with the game in the first half behind a four-goal second chukker from Polito Pieres. He continued the streak of high-level performance that has seen him make 10 goals in two previous games. This time he scored seven, still extremely effective.
Ellerstina won 13 of 17 throw-ins in the first half, launching into a rapid-fire assault that pressured La Dolfina PR into six fouls through the first two chukkers. The first half ended 9-4 for Ellerstina.
The game turned around in the second half. La Dolfina PR made the first four goals and gave Ellerstina a migraine, holding them scoreless for 15 minutes straight. Making zero goals in the fourth or fifth chukker, the Zeta offense was treading water.
Opening the sixth chukker, Cavanagh scored from about 45 yards out in traffic. That gave La Dolfina PR their fourth straight goal—and confidence that they could complete the comeback. But eventually the combination of foul trouble for La Dolfina PR and set play dominance for Ellerstina prevailed. It gave Ellerstina more possessions and allowed them to execute their set plays to create scoring chances.
La Dolfina PR made a big adjustment with their defense in the latter part of the game, relying on strong support from Ignatius du Plessis and Alejo Taranco. That made them better positioned to intercept passes and turn them into offense. It played a big difference when they prevented long passes and combination plays from Ellerstina.
Ellerstina was up by a single goal to start the eighth chukker. They won the opening throw-in and hit a long ball in front of the La Dolfina PR goal. Du Plessis rode back to hit a backhand and clear it away from goal but didn’t connect with the ball. Gonzalito Pieres came in and tapped it in. Ellerstina ended the day with a sliver of a victory, but in the end that was all that mattered.
Ellerstina’s upcoming game this Sunday against Cría Yatay is crucial for them. Ellerstina must win to make it to the semi-finals. They would face off against Alegría Land Rover, who is already through to the semis. Both teams would have a 3-0 record. If Ellerstina loses Sunday, they and Cría Yatay will both be 2-1.
An Alegría/Ellerstina matchup would make the Palermo semi-final the same scenario as in the Hurlingham Open, when they opposed each another. Ellerstina won 16-14 in a scrappy battle.
- Throw-ins: 1st half: Ellerstina 17-4, 2nd half: La Dolfina Polo Ranch 8-5
- Diego Cavanagh 4/4 on penalties, 4/5 from the field
- 4-goal run by La Dolfina Polo Ranch to open 2nd half, reducing deficit from 9-4 to 9-8
NEXT GAMES: There are four games scheduled over the weekend. Saturday: La Albertina Abu Dhabi vs. La Esquina Los Machitos (2 p.m.) and La Dolfina vs. La Irenita (4:30pm). Sunday: La Dolfina Polo Ranch vs. Chapaleufú (2 p.m. and Ellerstina vs. Cría Yatay (4:30 p.m.). All times are local. Buenos Aires is two hours later than U.S. Eastern time.
LIVE STREAM: ESPN is live streaming all games in the 2017 Argentine Open. The stream is only available online in certain geographical areas. Viewers in the United States can watch on an iPhone or iPad. More information: http://espni.go.com/player/video/ESPNPlayPolo/index.htm.
Photos by Katerina Morgan