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Valiente, Audi and Zacara wins

by U.S. Polo Correspondent Alex Webbe
The 2013 USPA Piaget Gold Cup got underway with a bang on Thursday with two blowouts and one overtime victory before swelling crowds of spectators at the International Polo Club in Wellington. Valiente got the ball rolling with their morning match with Mt. Brilliant, and it took them a little time for them to get the engine started. Valiente flexed their muscles in the second half; however, as they ran away with the game in a 15-6 win. Mt. Brilliant received one goal by handicap but two quick goals from Valiente 10-goalers Pelon Stirling and Adolfo Cambiaso had them facing a 2-1 deficit just two minutes into the game. Matias Magrini tied it up at 2-2 a t the 1:57 mark with teammate Santiago Chavanne scoring a goal in the final minute of the period for a 3-2 edge over Valiente.
Santi Torres scored a goal from the field to open the second chukker, 3-3, but a goal by Hutton Goodman had Mt. Brilliant back on top, 4-3, with three minutes left in the period. Cambiaso reminded everyone why he is considered the best in the game with his second goal of the day to end the chukker in a 4-4 deadlock.Mt. Brilliant continued to make a good showing of themselves in the third, with Nic Roldan converting a penalty shot for a goal to take the lead back, 5-4. A drive toward the Mt. Brilliant was stymied by a foul and a rarely awarded Penalty 1, awarding Valiente a goal and throwing the ball in front of the Mt. Brilliant goal. Cambiaso took advantage of the short field and throw-in, putting the ball through the goal posts to end the first half with Valiente on top, 6-5.
The pace began to quicken in the second half, but scoring was limited to single penalty goals for each side. Roldan tied it up at 6-6 on a penalty shot that was countered by a penalty goal from Torres three minutes later. Valiente continued to lead, 7-6. “We really didn’t have any rhythm in the first half,” said Valiente team captain Bob Jornayvaz. “We weren’t working together the way we usually do.” Valiente broke it open in the fifth, picking up a goal from Stirling in the first thirty seconds of lay followed by a goal from Cambiaso that he scored from the ensuing throw-in to put Valiente ahead, 9-6. A hard bump in the goal mouth by Magrini resulted in a second Penalty 1, 10-6, and Cambiaso’s breakaway goal closed out the scoring in the chukker with Valiente boasting a five goal, 11-6 lead.
“We haven’t played in weeks,” said Cambiaso when asked about the slow start. “Our last game was with Zacara (February 19, fifteen days ago). You can’t expect to be tournament ready when you don’t play.” Stirling and Cambiaso are teammates in Argentina and played together at IPC last year, but the layoff affected their play in the first half of the game. “We got better in the second half of the game,” Cambiaso offered, “and we hope to get better on Sunday (when they play Coca-Cola), but we need to be playing.” The final chukker was all Valiente as the teamwork started clicking and the horsepower was unleashed. Torres opened the sixth by taking the opening throw-in and racing down the field for a goal. A Mt. Brilliant foul resulted in a penalty goal (Torres), and Stirling closed out the game with a pair of goals from the field for the 15-6 victory.
“We’re looking forward to Sunday’s game,” smiled Jornayvaz. “They’re a good team” he added. “I always enjoy playing them.” Cambiaso led all scoring with five goals. Stirling and Torres scored four goals apiece and two goals were awarded to the team on penalties. Roldan scored two goals (both on penalty shots) for Mt. Brilliant. Goodman, Chavanne and Magrini each scored a goal and they received one goal by handicap.
The second game of the day saw Audi playing without injured team captain Marc Ganzi (broken thumb, replaced by Juancito Bollini) against a new entry in Fred Mannix’s Zorzal polo team. They were two minutes into the game before Mannix scored the first goal of the game from the field for Zorzal. Audi responded with a goal from Nico Pieres, 1-1. With three minutes on the clock, Marianito Obregon scored his first goal of the day to give Zorzal the 2-1 lead that they held to the end of the chukker. Both teams battled back and forth in an effort to control the ball as the pace continued to escalate. Shots went wide of the goalposts, players were ridden-off, and two-and-a-half minutes into the chukker, another goal from Obregon gave Zorzal a two goal lead, 3-1. Audi continued to press the attack, forcing Zorzal to foul. Nico Pieres converted the penalty shot for a goal, cutting the Zorzal lead to one goal, 3-2. The direction of play switched from end to end. With seconds on the clock, 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres scored to tie it up at 3-3.
Considering that it was a new lineup, the teamwork of the Zorzal team was impressive, and the play of Obregon and Jason Crowder at the front end of the lineup was impressive. Veteran 7-goaler Mariano Gonzalez anchored the team from the center of the lineup and a gifted Mannix played the Back position. The credentials of the Audi team were well-established with the return of the Pieres brothers and American 7-goaler Jeff Hall. A talented Juancito Bollini was substituting for an injured Marc Ganzi, but it was still vintage Audi play.
Goals were at a premium in the third chukker. Both defenses tightened. Gonzalito Pieres scored the only goal at 4:34. At the end of the first half of play, Audi left the field on top of a narrow 4-3 lead. Defense continued to rule in the second half with Nico Pieres and Crowder exchanging goals. Nico Pieres drove a well-placed neck shot through the goal posts while Crowder executed a flawless near-side neck shot to keep it close. After four chukkers Audi continued to hold a 5-4 advantage. Nico Pieres extended the Audi lead to two goals with his fourth goal of the day, but penalty conversions by Mannix and Gonzalez had it all even at 6-6 with one chukker left to play. It was just two minutes into the sixth chukker when Obregon gave Zorzal the go-ahead gal, 7-6, but Audi responded with a goal from the field from Jeff Hall. Time expired with the score all even at 7-7.
Gonzalito Pieres opened the overtime chukker with a knock in, carrying it the length of the field to score the winning goal in an 8-7 Audi victory. Nico Pieres led the attack with four goals for Audi. Gonzalito Pieres scored three times and Hall added a goal for the win. Obregon set the pace for the Zorzal offense with three goals. Mannix added two goals while Crowder and Gonzalez added single goals in the loss.
In what many expected to be the match of the day, Zacara shelled Coca-Cola 17-7 in a complete domination of the game. Facundo Pieres scored ten times while Coca-Cola was held to just two goals in the entire second half of the game. Mike Azzaro was on top of his game, and scored three of his four goals on the day in the opening chukker as Zacara stepped out to an early 3-2 lead. Coca-Cola picked up single goals from Sebastian Merlos and Sugar Erskine, but seemed to be fighting to catch up throughout the first period. Julio Arellano seemed to get Coca-Cola back into rhythm in the second, converting a penalty shot for a goal and adding another goal from the field. Two penalty goals from Facundo Pieres and a goal from the field from Magoo Laprida kept Zacara ahead, 6-4.
Zacara and company went to work in the third period, outscoring Coca-Cola 4-1 and moving out to a five goal halftime lead, 10-5. Pieres scored four times while Coca-Cola managed a single goal from Merlos. The fourth chukker was all Zacara. Long drives and successful runs at goal netted Zacara three goals while its miserly defense kept Coca-Cola off the scoreboard. Zacara team captain scored his first goal of the game while Pieres and Azzaro each scored once. With two chukkers left to play, Zacara was up by eight goals, 13-5.
The two teams exchanged goals in the fifth, with Pieres scoring two more goals while Coca-Cola answered back with a penalty goal from Arellano and a goal from the field from Merlos. At the end of the chukker, Coca-Cola continued to trail by eight goals, 15-7. Bad luck, unlucky bounces and missed opportunities continued to plague Coca-Cola in the final chukker. Pieres scored his tenth goal of the match and iced the cake by driving the ball 130 yards downfield to a racing Lyndon Lea for the final goal of the game in a 17-7 romp. Pieres led all scoring on the day with ten goals. Azzaro was credited with four goals. Lea scored twice and Laprida added a goal for the win. Merlos and Arellano scored three goals apiece for Coca-Cola while Erskine accounted for a single goal in the loss.

The Teams:
Alegria (+26)
Julian Mannix (+2)
Hilario Ulloa (+9)
Mariano Aguerre (+9)
Facundo Obregon (+6)
Audi (+26)
Marc Ganzi (+1) / Juancito Bollini
Nico Pieres (+8)
Gonzalito Pieres (+10)
Jeff Hall (+7)
ERG (+26)
Scott Wood (0)
Tincho Merlos (+9)
Eduardo N Astrada (+9)
Paco de Narvaez (+8)
Coca-Cola (+26)
Gillian Johnston (+1)
Sugar Erskine (+7)
Sebastian Merlos (+9)
Julio Arellano (+9)
Lechuza Caracas (+26)
Victor Vargas (+1)
Polito Pieres (+8)
Juan Martin Nero (+10)
Francisco Elizalde (+7)
Mt Brilliant/ Faraway (+26 / +25)
Bo / Hutton Goodman (+1 / 0)
Santiago Chavanne (+9)
Nic Roldan (+8)
Matias Magrini (+8)
Orchard Hill (+26)
Steve van Andel (0)
Matias MacDonough (+8)
Pablo MacDonough (+10)
Rodrigo Andrade (+8)
Alternativ: Nic Roldan (+8)
Piaget (+25 / +26)
Melissa Ganzi (0)
Nacho Badiola (+6) / Alt Juan Bollini (+5)
Sapo Caset (+10)
Miguel Novillo Astrada (+10)
Valiente (+26)
Bob Jornayvaz (0)
Pelon Stirling (+10)
Adolfo Cambiaso (+10)
Santi Torres (+6)
Zacara (+26)
Facundo Pieres (+10)
Lyndon Lea (+1)
Magoo Laprida (+8)
Mike Azzaro (+7)
Zorzal (+26)
Fred Mannix (+6)
Jason Crowder (+6)
Marianito Obregon (+7)
Mariano Gonzalez (+7)

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