It was a battle of strategy Sunday as King Power Foxes and Talandracas contested the quarterfinals of the 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, each team with a powerhouse set of players gunning on victory.
Pelon Stirling put the first goal on the board, and teammate Sapo Caset quickly set him up for a repeat to put Talandracas in the lead 2-0. Facundo Pieres hit Hugo Taylor with a pass on the run and a goal to rally King Power, but an answering goal from Hugo Lewis ended the first chukker 3-1 for Talandracas.
Pieres tapped and dodged his way down the field to score with a lofted shot, and a clever steal by Taylor sent downfield to Pieres evened up the score 3-3. Both teams took their time moving the ball up and down the field, setting up team plays and working to outmaneuver the other. With masterminds Pieres and Stirling calling the shots, the remainder of the second chukker resembled a chess match.
King Power briefly gained the lead in the third chukker after a goal by Gonzalito Pieres, but two goals by Sapo Caset put Talandracas up 5-4 going into halftime. With the Pieres brothers snakebit around goal in the fourth chukker, King Power were unable to capitalize on multiple opportunities to tie the game.
However, the team in royal blue seemed to come alive in the crucial fifth chukker, with Jimbo Fewster and Facundo Pieres slamming in four unanswered goals in rapid succession to make the score 8-5. The two continued their hot streak into the sixth chukker, doubling King Power's lead 10-5. In the final seconds of the game, Lewis ran a goal in, but it proved too little, too late for Talandracas as the match ended 10-6 for King Power Foxes.
"The first half was like the whole season [has been] for us. It was difficult and tough, and we couldn't make it our game. But I think in the second half the team played the way we wanted to, and we started to attack more, and that showed in the score," said Facundo. "Once we started playing our game, we did a lot better."
Gonzalito Pieres said the game was "a good light for the future,” adding, “Hugo and Jimbo played really well, and in the second half they started defending more than attacking. Facundo and I could be more on top of Pelon and Sapo. We needed to be free to be on those two players, and if they got through, Hugo and Jimbo could give us a hand. That started to show, and Pelon and Sapo started to suffocate a little bit. To score a goal, they had to get something really good or tire their horses out. Once we got the ball back, we were in a better position than before."
Best Playing Pony was Open Galactica, owned and played by Facundo Pieres.
The game came down to the blocking work from the players in the #1 and #2 positions for each team trying to free up space for the top players. Talandracas stuck with that, while King Power made the adjustment to stretch the field more, ultimately winning them the game. Talandracas took advantage of a weak first half for King Power, using their exceptional team play to gain momentum early on.
Things changed in the second half when King Power began to use Fewster more and were getting on quicker runs off backhands. Facundo took over and had an amazing fifth chukker, finishing three goals to really put Talandracas away. King Power turned the game on its head, nailing high-speed passes and opening the game up while tightening up their defense. The Pieres brothers reminded everyone watching that they are double-reigning Gold Cup champions as they take on Habtoor and their brother Nico in the semifinals.
King Power shot 9/18, Talandracas 6/10. King Power outshot Talandracas by 8 for the game and outshot them 11-4 in the second half.
Talandracas won throw-ins 16-8 but weren’t able to turn extra possessions into shots.
Fifth chukker was key for King Power. They won it 4-0 on 4-of-5 shooting with Facundo Pieres shooting perfect 3-for-3.
All Photos by Snoopy Productions
All 2017 Gold Cup games are being live streamed on pololine.tv.
Complete tournament schedule and daily game locations can be found here.