One of the best defensive performances bar none in the history of the sport, La Dolfina Sancor Seguros snatched a spot in the semifinals of the 124th Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open) Saturday with a 14-1 victory over La Aguada Las Monjitas. La Dolfina advances to the final December 2.
Although one of the commentators characterized it as a strangely tranquilo (calm) game, for La Aguada LM it surely felt anything but. Undefeated coming into the semis (3-0), they clawed their way through nearly two hours of frustration. Alejandro Novillo Astrada scored their one and only goal one minute into the game, tying the score at 1. From there on La Aguada LM slammed head-first into a La Dolfina defense that is normally a cement wall but this time was pure titanium.
Any pass from La Aguada LM was pounced on by one of the four La Dolfina 10-goalers, who were never caught in bad position once they got in the game. La Aguada LM had precious few chances the entire game and could never use a long pass to go on a run. La Dolfina was masterful at getting to the passes first and then hitting accurate backhands to start an attack. Try as they might, La Aguada could come up with no answer for it.
Offensively, David Stirling had an exceptional game and got things started for his team, opening the scoring 18 seconds into the game. He stayed on a hot streak, making five of La Dolfina's first six goals.
As a team, however, La Dolfina didn't shoot as well as normal. They converted only 11 of 28 shots (39%), but they didn't need to do more because the ball was mostly in the La Aguada LM half the whole game. La Dolfina averaged 22.3 goals per game coming in and scored only 14 in this game, but their defense was on an unprecedented stratospheric level and took the day.
Still, La Aguada had their moments. In the second chukker Miguel Novillo Astrada stopped a Cambiaso ball just as it was on the verge of rolling into goal. Cambiaso scored on the next play but then missed on a penalty shot when the ball cut wide to the left. Miguel stole the ball from Cambiaso in the fourth, but Juan Martín Nero swooped in and scored, making the score 8-1 at the half. As tensions ratcheted up, Miguel Novillo Astrada got into it with Pablo MacDonough while a foul call was being determined the sixth. The two exchanged some choice words as they spiraled around each other in a stalking pace, their circle drawing smaller and smaller, like cats daring the other to pounce.
Other than those few vignettes, the game was like watching the film “Groundhog Day”: the same thing over and over—and over. The goal progression, with La Dolfina extending their advantage chukker by chukker (except for a scoreless final chukker), tells the story: 3-1, 5-1, 7-1, 8-1, 10-1, 11-1, 14-1 and 14-1.
The combo of La Dolfina’s accurate passing and horsepower was just too much for La Aguada LM. Cambiaso swarmed the field on his arsenal of Cuartetera clones (B01, B03, B04, B05, B06 and B09) in the first six chukkers. By then La Dolfina was ahead by 10, so he chose Carla, another of his favorite mares, for an easy, non-pressure ride in the seventh. Pablo MacDonough played one of Cambiaso’s Lapa clones in the fourth.
- La Aguada scores 1 minute in. Zero goals the rest of the game.
- In 4 of 8 chukkas, La Aguada held to zero shots and penalty attempts.
- Stirling leads way with 6 goals (all from field), followed by Cambiaso and Nero with 4 each.
- La Dolfina makes just 4 of last 16 shots (25%) but still runs away with game.
Photos by Katerina Morgan