The 2016 Polo Skins Game, played at the Eldorado Polo Club on April 3rd, – the 21st renewal – featured teams that took distinctly different routes to get there. The Madison Club Polo Team (Jennifer Alexy, Joseph Stuart 4, Jared Sheldon 4, Gaston Von Wernich 4) came into the big game undefeated in qualifying play while Ron Mathison’s Chateau d’Esclans (Mathison, Marcello Rodriguez-Abbiati 5, Marcello Fassetta 5, Chad Bowman 2) arrived the hard way after winning a shootout over Twin Palms and Cotterel Farms. Truth is, however, it doesn’t matter one bit how you get there – it’s what you do when you get there to grab the $20,000 spread among six periods of polo.

The scoring started quickly as Chateau d’Esclans’ Rodriguez-Abbiati took the ball out of the opening throw-in and scampered unmolested to score in the first 25 seconds of play. Not at all phased, Madison Club got that one back as Von Wernich scored his only goal of the afternoon a short time later. Sheldon, on a very fast horse, simply outran everyone to score his first and the count now favored the Madison Club by one. The winemakers were able to come back quickly as Fassetta counted a penalty four and the first ended in a tie at two each to create the first carryover of the day. The second ‘skin’ would be worth $6,666.00. (2 – 2)

The second featured many long runs, spectacular defensive play to prevent goals, and yes, a few dropped balls. Sheldon struck for the only goal of the period on a long run from his own end as he simply couldn’t be caught and the money available was behind the gates of the Madison Club as they led with $6,666.00 to nil. The third would therefore be worth $3,333.00. (Madison Club 1 – 0)

Seemingly buoyed by the win in the second, the Madison Club was able to apply early pressure in the third that resulted in a penalty two conversion by Sheldon. Rodriguez-Abbiati was then able to score his second goal to generate the second carryover of the day and the half was over with no change in the lead and the fourth to be worth $6,666.00. (1 – 1)

With a chance to even the money count in the fourth, the wine makers came out and carried the early pressure which allowed Fassetta to convert two penalty two opportunities. However, Sheldon scored another to narrow the gap to just one. Rodriguez-Abbiati, a Skins veteran, then came back to score his third and shortly after Fassetta counted his fourth and Chateau d’Esclans were on their way to tie the dollar tally. Stuart broke free at the end and scored his first of the afternoon, but the Skin went to the winery and each team had acquired $6,666.00. (Chateau d’Esclans 4 – 2)

With the currency total even, the fifth chukker was pretty much even as well. Stuart scored his second for the Madison Club and Fassetta his fifth for the Chateau and it appeared that another carry over was imminent. Not to be, as Stuart was afforded a 40 yard free shot that he converted and the Madison Club took the $3,333.00 and had now earned $9,999.00. (Madison Club 2 – 1)

Trying to tie the money total, Chateau d’Esclans leaped out in the final frame as Fassetta struck for his sixth goal to lead by one. However, the Madison Club responded with unrelenting pressure that allowed Stuart to crush a penalty four followed by a beautiful goal scoring run by Alexy from the right corner. The now one goal advantage seemed to give the Club an edge as they were able to shut down the wine makers while getting another goal by Stuart. The addition of another $3,333.00 gave the Madison Club the Skins title by a count of $13,332.00 to $6,666.00. ( Madison Club 3 – 1)

As well as winning the championship, The Madison Club, because they outscored Chateau d’Esclans by a count of 11 – 9, took home the Richard Roenisch bronzes.

Based on his very aggressive and contributing play, Sheldon was chosen as the MVP and his third chukker horse, SportsCenter went back to the barn wearing the Best Playing Pony Blanket.

Tony Gregg

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