Michael Bickford's La Indiana produce brilliant comeback in second half, but Dubai ahead on final bell
The final of the Cartier Queen’s Cup today at Guards Polo Club really was a game of two halves. Dubai, no doubt favourites in this match as they have already won this trophy five times and their star player, Adolfo Cambiaso, holds the record for the most wins – eight – started strongly. Thanks to some accurate penalty taking off the sticks of Cambiaso and Nero, Dubai were 9-4 up at half-time and the game looked up for La Indiana. This was a disappointing start, especially as Michael Bickford’s boys had produced such exciting, four-man polo in their semi-final victory over King Power Foxes earlier in the week. Far too many penalties – 17 in the first three chukkas alone - was not what the 6,000-strong crowd had come to see.
Maybe La Indiana could sense the crowd’s disappointment, but they came out for the second half rejuvenated and inspired. Suddenly this game offered some lovely flowing polo, while the umpires’ whistles stayed in their pockets. Such was the transformation in the fourth chukka that La Indiana scored four goals – off the sticks of Agustin Merlos (two), Nic Roldan and Julian de de Lusarreta to none in reply from Dubai. This was now “game on” and only a goal separated these two great teams (9-8 to Dubai). A couple of goals from Juan Martin Nero and Cambiaso in the fifth, to only one in reply from Roldan – although this was a ball he picked up from clearing a shot by Cambiaso - Dubai remained in the lead 11-9 going into the final chukka. Merlos started things off and then team-mate Julian de Lusarreta scored what must be the goal of the tournament to take his team level. With only seconds left on the clock, it looked like this game was heading into extra time. However, a melee in the La Indiana goal eventually resulted in a penalty for Dubai and Cambiaso tap tapped the ball through to confirm his dominance in this trophy. Although Laurent Feniou, Managing Director of Cartier UK, presented the Cartier Most Valuable Player prize to Julian de de Lusarreta. He had galvanised La Indiana in the second half and was responsible for that goal of the season. Lusarreta also received the Cartier Best Playing Pony prize for Volcan, a 13-year-old chestnut gelding owned by Bautista Heguy. Ali Albwardy, the patron of the Dubai team, joined the team at the presentations to see his son Rashid receive the cup and a magnificent Cartier Tank Solo watch.
Laurent Feniou also presented the Cartier Trophy – played for as the subsidiary final – to Ludovic and Sebastien Pailloncy, patrons of the HB Polo team. They defeated Sifani (rec 1 goal) 10-9, but only after a seventh chukka. Incredibly after some three weeks of close matches between the 12 teams, this was only the second golden goal scenario in the 2016 Cartier Queen’s Cup.
This match was similar to that of the afternoon’s main final as HB were completely in the control in the first half, leading 7-2. David Stirling and Ignacio Toccalino were particularly strong for HB Polo and Sifani struggled to find any answers to some good play. Again, everything changed in the fourth with Juan Gris Zavaleta playing like a man possessed and ensuring that the scores were level (9-9) at the end of the sixth chukka. Not surprisingly, Zavaleta’s brilliance earned him a Most Valuable Player prize.
With the crowd on the edge of their seats, the seventh chukka was a disappointment due to the speed with which the game concluded. Pelon Stirling was awarded a penalty close to goal for HB Polo and not surprisingly this 10-goal superstar slotted the ball home to finish the game and win the match for HB Polo.