Wednesday wins by Lechuza (Louis de Bourbon, Pelon Stirling, Juan Martín Nero and Will Harper) and Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Martin Valent, Pablo MacDonough and Josh Cork) in Gold Cup action at Spain’s Santa Maria Polo Club set the stage for the semifinals of the last high-goal tournament of the season.
In the opening match of the day, both Lechuza and Ayala (Iñigo Zobel, Peque Gonzalez, Facundo Pieres and Santiago Laborde) had amassed 2-1 records, all but assuring them of positions in Friday’s Gold Cup semifinals, but the play didn’t reflect the complacency that might permeate such a matchup. Ayala scored twice while limiting Lechuza to a single goal and taking the early 2-1 lead.
Ayala added two more goals in the second while Lechuza managed just a single goal. After two periods of play, Ayala led by two goals, 4-2.
Lechuza’s two 10-goalers got to work in the third combining for four goals. Ayala scored once but found themselves trailing at halftime, 6-5.
A fourth chukker rally by Ayala netted them three goals while an aggressive defense held Lechuza scoreless. By the end of the period, Ayala had regained their two-goal lead that had Lechuza trailing, 8-6.
Lechuza beefed up their potent offense in the final two chukkers, tying the game at 8-8 in the fifth and riding off with the 11-8 victory behind three more unanswered goals in the sixth.
Both teams qualified for the semifinals, and in spite of efforts to save the horses, going forward, it was an exciting game.
The win gives Lechuza a tournament high 3-1 record while Ayala fell to 2-2.
Dubai 11, Dos Lunas 10
The second game of the day had the most importance of the tournament. Both Dubai and Dos Lunas (James Fewster, Paul S. de Vicuña, Facundo Sola and Martin Podesta) limped in to their final preliminary match of the tournament with identical 1-2 records. The winner would go on to play in the semifinals. The loser would go home.
Dubai started strong, scoring three goals in the first chukker. Dos Lunas scored once but trailed early, 3-1.
Goals were hard to come by in the second as the two teams traded goals. Dubai continued to lead by two goals, 4-2, going into the third.
For the second consecutive chukker the teams matched one another, goal-for-goal. After three periods of play, Dubai held the lead, 6-4.
Dubai tried to finish off a struggling Dos Lunas team as the, but they weren’t going away. Two goals for Dubai and two goals from Dos Lunas kept the goal difference at two for the fourth consecutive chukker, with Dubai on top, 8-6.
Facundo Sola led a fifth chukker rally that saw Dos Lunas put four goals on the scoreboard. Dubai was held to a single goal and trailed for the first time, 10-9.
The Dubai defense stepped it up in the sixth period, holding Dos Lunas scoreless while adding two goals of their won for the 11-10 victory.
The win boosted Dubai into Friday’s semifinal against Ayala where they will attempt to return to the tournament final to defend their 2016 Gold Cup title. The second semifinal match will pit Lechuza against La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Juan Martin Zavaleta, Tincho Merlos and Byron Watson). Winners will advance to Sunday’s Gold Cup final.