China’s prestigious Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club hosted the final round of group games today at the Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup 2017, which saw Argentina and Hong Kong China battle their way through to the Semi Finals, to play South Africa and England respectively.
This sets up a repeat of last year’s grand final with a tantalizing contest between local team Hong Kong China and their historic rivals England, one of which will go through to face either South Africa or Argentina.
Argentina took on Australia in the day’s first contest, both nations having lost their opening games to England, so it was a must win affair. Taking the reins for Argentina were Dylan Rossiter, Francisco Menendez and Santiago Cernadas. Their opponents Australia comprised Jack Archibald, Dirk Gould and Matt Grimes.
The wind was whipping across the snow as play got underway, but the winter sun burned brightly in a blue sky. Australia started with intent, the boys in blue jerseys putting a penalty chance wide but making no mistake with the next opportunity, Matt Grimes slotting it home.
Both teams were full of running, but it was Argentina who put together the deadliest attacks in the second chukka. Number three Santiago Cernadas gave a master class of polo skill, scoring three times in as many minutes, the pick of which was a moment of nonchalant brilliance, sidestepping his opponent and smashing home from twenty yards.
Events took a dramatic turn in the third chukka with an Argentinian player sin-binned for a serious infraction. Australia had 60 seconds of three players versus two, but were unable to capitalise, their shot bouncing out off the post. Australia finally got the reward their endeavours deserved, however, Dirk Gould controlling the ball neatly and trotting towards goal before unleashing a screamer. And then it was 3 – 3, Australia’s Jack Archibald converting a tricky backhand to make it all square going into the fourth and final chukka.
Argentina got off to a great start with a converted penalty in the final period, before Dylan Rossiter found himself in space and with clear sight of goal, and he didn’t miss his mark. Argentina were rampant, forcing another penalty which Santiago Cernadas scored, his fifth of the match, to make it 6 – 3. Unbowed, Australia soldiered on, pulling back a goal from the penalty spot, but missing another tap in soon after. In the end it wasn’t to be, the final score 6 – 4 to the South American side.
In the day’s second must-win contest, local side Hong Kong China took on the USA. In the red jerseys for Hong Kong China were Gaston Moore, Matias Vial and John Fisher. Their opponents were Shane Rice, Pelon Escapite and Tommy Biddle for the USA.
The spoils in the first chukka went to the navy blue jerseys of the USA, Tommy Biddle scoring the only goal with a penalty after two minutes. But Hong Kong China are at their most dangerous with their backs against the wall, Gaston Moore settling nerves with a brilliant team goal at the start of the second. Then Matias Vial stepped up for Hong Kong China, putting away a penalty to make it 2 – 1, only for Tommy Biddle to get his second of the match soon after with another penalty. Going into half time, it was advantage Hong Kong China as Matias Vial registered another score from the penalty spot.
Hong Kong China’s John Fisher capitalised on an opportunity early in the third chukka to make it 4 – 2, but the USA came back strong, Shane Rice galloping in his first goal of the game, a fine effort. And then it was all square, Tommy Biddle scoring his third from the spot to set up a tense finish.
Hong Kong China capitalized on a lucky deflection to go 5 – 4 up two minutes into the final chukka, but there was nothing lucky about what happened next, Gaston Moore charging toward goal and driving home a fine effort. With the USA rattled, Hong Kong China piled on the pressure, Matias Vial striking hard from close range to make it 7 – 4. The USA were on the ropes as Hong Kong China spurred their ponies on to victory, and a Semi-Final clash with England.
With the group stages decided, China’s polo devotees are looking ahead to Saturday’s Semi-Finals, with Hong Kong China taking on England and Argentina versus South Africa. After two losses each, Australia and the USA bow out gracefully, to lick their wounds and rally the troops for another day.