HB edge La Bamba, remain undefeated

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BRITISH TRIPLE CROWN: JAEGER-LECOULTRE GOLD CUP FOR THE BRITISH OPEN (2016) – DAY 5
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HB Polo vs. La Bamba, during day five of the 2016 Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, Sunday, June 26th, at Cowdray Park Polo Club

HB Polo vs. La Bamba, during day five of the 2016 Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, Sunday, June 26th, at Cowdray Park Polo Club / Photo by Tony Ramirez/Images of Polo / imagesofpolo.com


 

HB Polo – 11 (OT)

Ludovic Pailloncy (1), Cubi Toccalino (8),
Pelon Stirling (10), Sebastien Pailloncy (3)

La Bamba de Areco – 10

Jean Francois Decaux (0), Diego Cavanagh (8),
Magoo Laprida (8), Rodrigo Rueda (6)


In a nerve-shattering double header Sunday in the 2016 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, the first game went into extra time and the next looked like a sure bet for the same until the last gasp. HB Polo stands an undefeated 3-0 after squeezing past La Bamba de Areco 11-10 in the seventh chukka. Cowdray Vikings improved their record to 1-1, defeating Murus Sanctus 10-9 in the latter’s debut match in the tournament.

Regardless which of the four teams one was rooting for, there was never a safe moment to exhale until the final bell. Even with a four-point spread at the same juncture in both games (9-5 in the fifth), neither was a done deal. HB Polo went home after the first match elated over a third consecutive win—and likely thanking whichever deity they pray to that they outlasted the revved-up La Bamba de Areco machine.

Eight-goalers Diego Cavanagh and Cristian “Magoo” Laprida led the charge for La Bamba de Areco, each making five of their team’s 10 total goals. Cavanagh, who played for Dubai in their 2014 British Open win, was the designated knock-in taker Sunday.

David “Pelón” Sterling, high-scorer of the game with six goals, played one of his favorite ponies, “Angel,” in the first and sixth chukkas. The horse won Best-playing Pony last week in the Carlos Gracida Cup, the opening match of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, which HB Polo won against Talandracas 12-10.

HB Polo started the game with two breakaway goals, one each by Sterling and Ludovic Pailloncy. Sterling delivered with customary flair, pouncing on a loose ball and then flicking it ahead and plucking it back out of the air as he barreled past Laprida. The message to La Bamba was clear: Keep the ball away from the 10-goaler. Laprida immediately set upon that task at the top of the third chukka, pulling La Bamba into the lead with three consecutive head-spinning goals. His first came on a 90-yard drive, the second in a battle with Ignacio “Cubi” Toccalino (who chased him straight into goal and came within a hair of shutting him down on the doorstep) and the third in a makeshift Kentucky Derby run against Ludo Pailloncy. The first half ended with the score tied at 3.

Cavanagh’s mate seemed to kick in midway through the fourth chukka. He snatched the ball from Sterling, wove his way around Sebastien Pailloncy and then dodged Sterling, who had jumped back into the mix. With two minutes until chukka, Cavanagh leveled the score at 5. Sebastien Pailloncy persevered, stealing the ball from Jean Francois Decaux. Pailloncy blasted down the field and hit the ball at a perfectly calibrated angle into goal.

Meanwhile, Toccalino and Sterling continued working the field together as though they had been teammates for years. One of the top defensive players in the sport, Toccalino also showed his offensive prowess, scoring from 15 yards on a pass from Stirling in the fifth (and later sewing up the win for HB Polo in extra time).

Trailing by four goals at the top of the sixth, La Bamba took the plunge. Laprida flew across the centerline and straight into goal like a man possessed. Cavanagh scored on two deadeye-accurate penalty shots, tying the game at 10. HB Polo had the final say in extra time as Toccalino captured the bouncing ball and put it through for the win.

Sebastien Pailloncy acknowledged that playing against La Bamba was difficult, noting they are “three balanced pros.” He added, “We expected their tactics. They turn a lot with the ball and come like a train at three players. Our game is different because we have only two pros, and most of the time Pelón hits to Cubi.”

He said playing with Sterling is “amazing—he runs a lot and is everywhere. I don’t have time to break and turn when he’s already running the other way!” Although Sterling is the headliner, Pailloncy said his focus is not on himself. “Pelón really strives to take care of his teammates and brings out the best in all of us.”

–Darlene Ricker

 

Cowdray Vikings vs. Murus Sanctus, during day five of the 2016 Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, Sunday, June 26th, at Cowdray Park Polo Club

Cowdray Vikings vs. Murus Sanctus, during day five of the 2016 Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, Sunday, June 26th, at Cowdray Park Polo Club / Photo by Tony Ramirez/Images of Polo / imagesofpolo.com


 

Cowdray Vikings – 10

George Pearson (2), Chris Mackenzie (6),
Jack Richardson (6), Alejandro Novillo Astrada (8)

Murus Sanctus – 9

Corinne Ricard (0), Manuel Elizalde (5),
Facundo Sola (8), Alfredo Cappella (9)

 


The Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship was established in 1956, when it was then known as the Cowdray Park Gold Cup. The trophy itself was stolen in 1968, and has not been recovered. Stowell Park and Tramontana share the record for most wins, with five titles apiece.
 


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