The final day of bracket play in the USPA Gold Cup® held implications as the four teams in Bracket II looked to secure their spot in the quarterfinals. Undefeated Pilot remained atop the bracket, defeating Old Hickory Bourbon 10-8, while Park Place emerged as the second seed, capturing a narrow 7-6 victory over Tonkawa at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
A fast, end-to-end style of play between Old Hickory Bourbon and Pilot saw very few whistles, leaving the eight players to compete in open play in a game that came down to the final chukker. Inaccurate shooting from Old Hickory Bourbon in the early stages left them facing a large deficit that they nearly came back from, but ultimately 7 goals from Facundo Pieres led Pilot to the narrow victory.
Beginning the game with three unanswered goals, all from the field, Facundo Pieres gave Pilot a quick 3-0 lead just minutes in as Old Hickory Bourbon struggled to slow the potent Pilot attack. Victorino Ruiz Jorba gave Old Hickory Bourbon a temporary relief to Pilot’s run to end the first chukker, but Facundo Pieres continued his relentless attack, scoring two more goals and pushing Pilot’s lead to four. A reorganized Old Hickory Bourbon defense pressured Pilot and prevented the Pieres duo from breaking free at the end of the half, responding with back-to-back goals from Will Johnston and Jorba to finish the half trailing 6-3.
A crucial moment in the match, Old Hickory Bourbon came out firing to begin the second half, quickly bringing the game into a 6-6 tie behind the duo of Johnston and Jorba, who scored three goals in quick succession. A reinvigorated Old Hickory Bourbon team continued to push forward, with Johnston at the helm, as he tied for the team lead with four goals. Trading goals with Pilot in the 5th chukker left the score at 8-7, but Facundo Pieres’ 7th goal of the game extended their advantage to two. Finding an opportune time fir his first goal, Lucas Escobar sealed the 10-8 victory for Pilot and a 3-0 record in the tournament.
In what was expected to be a high-scoring match-up turned into a defensive affair between Park Place and Tonkawa with a late stretch of goals for both teams providing most of the offense in the game. Limiting Sapo Caset to just three goals, five off his 8.0 goal per game average, Park Place kept themselves in the game and produced a final chukker run of three goals, led by Joaquin Panelo who played a second game in place of the injured Felipe Viana. Along with the performance of Juan Britos, Park Place completed the comeback to claim the thrilling 7-6 victory.
After a scoreless first chukker, Caset opened the scoring with consecutive goals, including a penalty 4 conversion to hold an early 2-0 lead. Foul trouble hindered both teams over the opening two chukkers, yet each scored one penalty goal with the majority of fouls resulting in spot hits and possessions that were met by strong defenses. Juan Britos and Sapo Caset continued to trade goals for their respective teams, accounting for all six goals in the first half with the teams deadlocked at 3-3.
The ball continued to stay in the middle of the field, with scoring chances hard to come by at the start of the second half. Joaquin Panelo came forward from the back of the game to give Park Place their first lead at 4-3, while the normally potent Tonkawa offense were held off the scoreboard. Finally breaking through, Tonkawa displayed a persistent attack in the fifth chukker, receiving a penalty 1 goal as well as field goals from Jeff Hildebrand and Ignacio Toccalino, to take a commanding two-goal lead into the final chukker. On the receiving end of a nice backhand pass, Panelo brought Park Place within one, which was followed by safety conversion for Britos to tie the score. In a high-pressure moment, Panelo struck again, scoring the game-winning goal and sending Park Place into the quarterfinals. With the loss, Tonkawa was forced into a shootout with Daily Racing Form and Equuleus for the eighth and final spot this morning at 10am. Jared Zenni for DRF won the shootout, so his team will advance to the quarterfinals this weekend:
Saturday, March 14
11am: Quarterfinal I: Santa Clara vs. Daily Racing Form
3pm: Quarterfinal II: Pilot vs. Park Place
Sunday, March 15
11am: Quarterfinal III: Dutta Corp vs. La Indiana
3pm: Quarterfinal IV: Las Monjitas vs. Patagones