If one can say anything this early in the 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, it is this: No team is the 800-pound gorilla (at least not yet). In the five games so far, the margin of victory has never been more than 2 goals, and three games have been decided by a single goal.
And so it went Saturday with yet another hair’s-breadth victory as Talandracas edged out Sommelier 11-10 at Ambersham. Talandracas had experienced the less fortunate side of the 1-goal equation on opening day, when they lost 9-8 to Murus Sanctus, and were intent on reversing it Saturday. They dominated the first chukka with four quick goals (two from Sapo Caset and one each from David Stirling and Hugo Lewis). Sommelier, meanwhile, found themselves constantly chasing the ball, unable to stop Talandracas from converting all four of their shot attempts and their one penalty 3 attempt.
A scoreless Sommelier found themselves with a 4-goal deficit entering the second chukka but began to find their footing thanks to two goals from Alec White. His second came from a perfect passing play out of the throw-in, with Juan Gris Zavaleta setting him up for the finish. Throw-ins became a big factor in Sommelier’s comeback—they won 21 of the 30 throw-ins in the game, taking some of them straight into goal. They also used their extra possessions to force Talandracas into committing 7 fouls in the second half.
After an evenly split third chukka, Fred Mannix scored three consecutive goals, two from the field and one from the penalty line. That erased the earlier 5-goal deficit and tied the score. Stopping the combination of Caset and Stirling early in the second half was key for Sommelier. A big part of that resulted from an apparent tactical shift. Sommelier started bringing Mannix forward and having Zavaleta play more of a back position. Positioning Mannix defensively closer to Caset rather than sitting back waiting for the attack seemed to work better for Sommelier.
However, you can only contain Caset for so long. Talandracas were restored to a 2-goal advantage at the end of the fifth chukka, courtesy of Caset (his fifth goal), quickly followed by Eduoard Carmignac’s first goal. Sommelier kept pressing to tie the game in the sixth and got within one goal as Zavaleta opened the scoring. But after a late penalty 4 conversion from Caset, Talandracas sealed the victory and survived the comeback attempt from Sommelier for the 11-10 victory.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup continues tomorrow with a double-header at Cowdray Park Polo Club: 2017 Queen’s Cup victors RH Polo vs. Murus Sanctus at noon (lawn 2) and Gold Cup defending champion King Power Foxes vs. La Bamba de Areco at 3 p.m. (lawn 1).
All 2017 Gold Cup games are being live streamed on pololine.tv by polocam.tv
Full game schedule can be found here.
Photography by Snoopy Productions