A Facundo Pieres led Ayala polo team (Iñigo Zobel, Peque Gonzalez, Facundo Pieres and Santiago Laborde) earned a berth in Spain’s Gold Cup final with a hard-fought 8-7 win over the defending championship Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Martin Valent, Pablo MacDonough and Josh Cork) at the Santa Maria Polo Club.
In a tightly-played defensive battle, Ayala scored the only goal of the opening chukker. Dubai had several opportunities to score but an oppressive Ayala defense kept the defending champion off of the scoreboard in the opening seven minutes of the day.
Ayala continued to pick up speed in the second period adding two more goals. Dubai continued to have trouble breaking through the Ayala defenders and fell behind, 3-0.
The Dubai attack began to gel in the third. Dubai scored twice while limiting Ayala to a single gal. At the end of the first half Ayala continued to lead, but Dubai was closing the gap and trailed by two goals, 4-2.
The fourth period belonged to Dubai, outscoring Ayala 2-0. Missed penalty shots plagued the Ayala team, with the chukker ending in a 4-4 tie.
The two teams traded goals in the fifth, each side scoring once. After five periods, the score remained even at 5-5.
Ayala exploded for the first three goals of the sixth period, 8-5, with Pieres leading the charge. Dubai rallied for the final two goals of the game with Ayala escaping with an 8-7 victory.
La Indiana 11, Lechuza 10
Playing with a lineup; that substituted Juan Gris Zavaleta for Juan Gris Zavaleta, La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Juan Martin Zavaleta, Tincho Merlos and Byron Watson) upset the heavily-favored Lechuza (Luis de Bourbon, Pelon Stirling, Juan Martín Nero and Will Harper) with two goals in the final chukker for an 11-10 win.
Each team scored once in the opening chukker with each side sizing up the other in the low-scoring period. Disciplined defensive play by both teams resulted in a 1-1 deadlock.
Once gain the teams matched one another goal-for-goal in the second with Lechuza unable to shake off the persistent La Indiana defenders. After two chukkers, the score remained even at 3-3.
The teamwork of 10-goalers Pelon Stirling and Juan Martin Nero began to pay off in the third. Lechuza scored three times while limiting La Indiana to a single goal. At the end of the first half, Lechuza had taken the lead, 6-4.
La Indiana regrouped at halftime and hit the field running in fourth period action. Three La Indiana goals were answered by a single goal from Lechuza as they saw their lead vanish and fell behind, 8-7.
Lechuza bounced back in the fifth, outscoring La Indiana 2-1. After five periods of play, the score was level at 9-9.
Physical play characterized the final seven minutes of the game, with La Indiana scoring twice. Lechuza was held to a single goal in the 11-10 La Indiana win that would send Michael Bickford’s team to Sunday’s final where they will meet Ayala for the 2017 Gold Cup Championship.