The sun kept up its perfect record of shining down on London’s Hurlingham Park for the third day of Chestertons Polo in the Park. Polo fans gathered at the iconic grounds on Finals Day as Argentex Team Dubai – led by George Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford – were crowned winners of Chestertons Polo in the Park.
Before the three matches began, guests were treated to a transformed venue with A-list children’s party planners, Sharky & George and London’s top soft play venue, Eddie Catz joining forces to create a wonderland for the Little Hooves Kids Club, including bouncy castles, face painting, a soft play zone and a brilliant arts and craft area for children to get their creative hats on. After a morning of excitement, the guests were geared up for an afternoon of exhilarating polo from some of the world’s finest players.
To open the day’s polo action, the Subsidiary Final took place between Mauritius Team Port Louis and Air Europa Team Buenos Aries. In blustery conditions both teams took a few minutes to find their stride and settle in to the game. An early-crossing penalty gave Nacho Gonzalez a chance to open the scoring; however, he pushed his effort wide. Never one to dwell on a missed opportunity, Gonzalez quickly regrouped and slotted home a beautiful strike to give Mauritius Team Port Louis a 1-0 lead. Building on their early goal, Mauritius Team Port Louis started to take control of the game when James McCarthy latched onto a beautiful pass from teammate Gonzalez outside the ‘D’ to increase the lead to 3-0 just as the first chukka ended.
As the second chukka began, Air Europa Team Buenos Aries began to make their mark on the game thanks to a close-range finish from Juan Cruz Guevara, closing the gap to just two goals, but a subsequent missed penalty by Guevara kept them from getting any closer. The second half of the game started much quicker than the first, with both teams adding a goal to their tallies, but countless other scoring opportunities went begging due to the changeable weather conditions. As the seconds ran out in the fourth and final chukka, Mauritius Team Port Louis put the result beyond all doubt with a well worked team goal, finished off by James McCarthy.
The second game of the day was the Runner-Up Final, as hometown favourites MINT Team London took on Whitley Neill Team Cape Town, both teams vying to take home third place. A testy opening chukka saw both teams piling on the pressure and creating chances, but sterling defensive play kept the scores at 0-0. It wasn’t until Joaquin Pittaluga stroked in a penalty to give Whitley Neill Team Cape Town a slender lead, right as the first chukka came to a close. The pressure continued into the second chukka with Ruki Baillieu finally opening the scoring for MINT Team London, levelling the scores at 1-1. Despite the wind continuing to challenge both sides, Whitley Neill Team Cape Town strung together a series of beautiful passes which Jamie Morrison was able to finish off to give Whitley Neill Team Cape Town an authoritative 3-1 lead, and one which they wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the game.
As the second half got underway, both teams continued knocking at the door, but neither could finish it off until the very end of the fourth chukka when Pittaluga avoided challenges from two opponents and buried his shot, and Jamie Morrison added his second to give a final score of 5-1.
Speaking on the win, Whitley Neill Team Cape Town’s Jamie Morrison said, “It was a glorious day and a great game, which was closer than we thought, and closer than the score line suggested. It was tough, as Chestertons Polo in the Park always is, and I was hoping we would get to the Final, although we didn’t make it this year. Chestertons Polo in the Park is always fantastic and going from strength to strength, with a great turn out and all the kids really getting into it and supporting the teams.”
The last game of the day was the one that everyone had been waiting for, the Chestertons Polo in the Park 2017 Final, and it certainly lived up to the billing. Right on the stroke of five o’clock EFG Team Zurich and Argentex Team Dubai rode out to an electric atmosphere and blazing sunshine, both teams ready to give their all. Just as the fans had hoped, the game got off to a scintillating start, as with barely a minute played both teams were on the scoreboard, Alejandro Muzzio recording his first goal for Argentex Team Dubai and Max Charlton levelling almost immediately.
By the end of the first chukka each team had doubled their totals to keep the game exciting at 2-2, but in the second chukka Argentex Team Dubai really piled on the pressure, notching an additional four goals to take an imperious 6-2 lead, and at half-time it looked like they would be the runaway winners of the day. The half-time break allowed for EFG Team Zurich to recompose themselves and on the back of two Max Charlton goals and a Chris Hyde two-pointer, EFG Team Zurich were right back in the game, trailing by only one goal with a score line of 7-6 at the end of the third chukka. The final chukka saw plenty of chances for EFG Team Zurich to complete the comeback of the tournament, but the defending of Argentex Team Dubai proved too strong in the end, and they were able to squeak out the win to be crowned Chestertons Polo in the Park 2017 Champions.
Speaking after his victory, Argentex Team Dubai’s Juan Cruz Merlos said, “It’s my first time playing at Chestertons Polo in the Park and it was really great. In the first half we were winning by five goals but they caught up. The second half was very close but we managed to take the win. The event was great fun and really well organised, and the crowd is amazing.”
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