What could be better than „real“ quarter-finals (knockouts) to give rise to intense battles? Not much as the quarters of the Engel & Völkers French Open played since Saturday have demonstrated. The games have been incredibly hard-fought, fast-paced and each time the outcome has been decided on the wire, in the final chukker, with never more than a two goals difference. The four semi-finalists are now known and one thing is certain: the upcoming semi-finals will offer a glorious show.
The four most organised and successful teams of this tournament, and of French polo, will compete on Thursday for the two places of the final. The first quarter saw defending champions La Magdeleine barely escape the trap of Amanara, who came close to springing a surprise (10-9). With Pablo McDonough‘s organisation behind them, the Parisian team, who played the English season this summer, is a serious contender for the title, of course, but nothing can be taken for granted as this game proved on Saturday.
On Sunday, the game in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, saw Talandracas (Deauville), the only French team to have won the Queen‘s Cup in Windsor, trying to defeat the finalist of the Engel & Völkers 2021 French Open, Kazak, a big team organised around one of the aces of the Argentine Abierto, Jero Del Carril. Mission accomplished (9-7), but at the cost of a tough, yet beautiful fight with actions and turnarounds played at a breathtaking pace.
Two other quarters were equally undecided until the end on Monday when, once again, the verdict only came at the end of the final chukker. The local team of the Chantilly Polo Club, Los Dragones, winner of the Polo Rider Cup in June, and strengthened by the phenomenal Bautista Bayugar, was able to defeat the Argentinian club La Fija Sandbox though with great difficulty.
Another „high profile“ team, the only French-based team to have won the British Open Gold Cup, Brittany Polo Club, also had a scare. It took a coaching error – two La Berta players left the field to change horses at the wrong time – for Diego Cavanagh to give his team the lead (10-9), and then immediately put the game to bed (11-9 at the final bell). One of the most memorable moments of the game was the huge „golaso“ of the Brittany Polo Club‘s owner, Jean-François Decaux, after a crazy breakaway across the whole field.
La Magdeleine vs. Talandracas and Los Dragones vs. Brittany Polo Club, such is the line-up of these dream semi-finals of the 2022 Engel & Völkers French Open, one of the most exciting of this century. It is almost sad that it is already coming to an end.
Today (11 am., 1 pm and 3 pm.), the Women‘s French Open kicks off with six teams in the starting blocks representing seven different nationalities, including the world‘s number one, British Hazel Jackson. The beautiful sport never stops at the Polo Club de Chantilly and it will be so until Sunday, the big day of the finals.
Semi-finals of the Engel & Völkers French Open:
• La Magdeleine (FRA) vs. Talandracas (FRA), Thursday 15 September, 5pm
• Brittany Polo Club (FRA) vs. Los Dragones (FRA), Friday 16 September, 3pm
Above left: LA MAGDELEINE 16: Alexandre Garese (Cap 0), Santiago Tahier (1), Tito Ruiz Guinazu (7), Facundo F.Llorente (8)
Above right: BRITTANY POLO CLUB 16: Jean-François Decaux (Cap, 1), Benjamin Urquiza (6), Diego Cavanagh (8), Roberto Iturrioz (1)
Below left: LOS DRAGONES 16: Sam Sztarkman (2), Jota Chavanne (Cap, 5), Bautista Bayugar (8), Alexandre Sztarkman (1)
Below right: TALANDRACAS 16 : Edouard Carmignac (Cap, 0), Rufino Bensadon (7), Juan-Martin Zubia (8), Hugues Carmignac (1)
Photos by R&B Presse / Pascal Renauldon