Ellerstina Piaget in the Palermo final
Semifinal: Ellerstina Piaget vs. Alegria Assist Card 17-13
Ellerstina Piaget team (Facundo Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres, Nico Pieres and Nachi du Plessis) defeated Alegria on Tuesday afternoon and will face La Dolfina (Adolfo Cambiaso, David 'Pelon' Stirling, Juan Martin Nero, Pablo MacDonough) in the 2014 Argentine Open Final on Saturday, December 6th.
Following a rain-delayed semifinal, Ellerstina and Alegria met in a rematch of last year’s semifinal showdown, a game which was won by Alegria in upset fashion, sending them to their first Argentine Open final.
While team captain Fred Mannix returned to the Alegria lineup after sitting out since the Tortugas Open, Ellerstina didn't have that same luck - Argentine Open veteran, Mariano Aguerre remained sidelined with a shoulder injury, and South African 8-goaler Nachi du Plessis took his place on the field.
In a tentative opening chukker by both teams, Nico Pieres and cousin Polito Pieres exchanged goals for a 1-1 finish.
Facundo Pieres converted a 30-yard penalty shot to give Ellerstina a 2-1 edge. Alegria responded with a 30-yard penalty conversion from Polito Pieres and a goal from the field on an individual effort from Hilario Ulloa for a 3-2 advantage for Alegria.
Polito Pieres tapped the ball in from 25-yards out, 4-2, but Ellerstina responded immediately. Nico Pieres sent the ball through the goal posts from about five yards out, 4-3, followed by a cut shot from 10-yards out from Nachi du Plessis that had it even at 4-4. Facundo Pieres put Ellerstina in the lead, 5-4, with his second goal of the game and Gonzalito Pieres blasted the ball through the goal at the bell for a 6-4 lead.
Fourth chukker play saw Polito Pieres cut the Ellerstina lead to a single goal, 6-5. Facundo Pieres carried the ball between and through two opponents, scoring his third goal of the game, placing Ellerstina on top by two goals at the end of the first half, 7-5.
Both teams concentrated on their defensive efforts as the second half began. Facundo Pieres converted another penalty shot to extend their lead to three goals, 8-5. Hilario Ulloa matched his goal with a score of his own. With just three chukkers left to play, Ellerstina held on to a two goal lead, 8-6. Facundo Pieres scored two of his three sixth chukker goals from the field while Polito Pieres scored a fourth to keep Alegria in the game. Polito scored once on a penalty shot and once from the field. With two periods left to play, Ellerstina held on to their two goal lead, 11-9.
Ellerstina looked more and more comfortable with their makeshift lineup as the game continued. A pair of goals from Gonzalito Pieres and a single goal from Nico Pieres in the opening minutes of the seventh had Ellerstina in the lead by five goals, 14-9. Polito Pieres converted a penalty shot while teammate Hilario Ulloa added their second goal of the chukker with Facundo Pieres to end the chukker at 14-11.
Ellerstina cut loose in the final chukker, racing out to a five goal lead, 17-12. A final goal from Polito Pieres cut the lead to four goals, but it was Ellerstina that got revenge from last year’s “upset”: 17-13.
The victory puts Ellerstina back into the Argentine Open final, scheduled to play their old nemesis, La Dolfina next Saturday, December 6th.
Score Ellerstina Piaget: 1-1, 2-3, 6-4, 7-5, 8-7, 11-9, 14-11, 17-13
Ellerstina Piaget Scorers: Facundo Pieres 9 (2 on penalty shots and 1 corner), Gonzalo Pieres Jr 4, Nicolás Pieres 3, Nachi du Plessis 1
Nachi Du Plessis: It's been an honor for me to have played this semifinal; I feel I've done my part, so I am very happy about. The horses rode very well, both Mariano's and Nico's horses are fantastic - , felt very good riding them. I think I can't put into words what I feel playing in Palermo. I come from South Africa and it was a long way for me; I am very proud to be a part of it.
Facundo Pieres: We're extremely happy; we had a lot of pressure. Everybody expected us to win this match and reach the final... even us! However, we had a tough rival; Alegria is playing very well, and every time we have played against them it has been quite difficult for us. But we played well today, we were always in the lead, and when they came closer, our team showed the best version of itself. It's true that La Dolfina has a two day advantage, rest-wise, but that could be good for us and our horses; we have to look at the positive side. Our team is ready to win, there's no doubt about it: we are determined to win this final. I guess we need to fix a couple of things before we play against La Dolfina, the hardest of all teams; if we don't play a perfect match, they'll win. We have to remain concentrated these next few days and know that each of us must give our absolute best. There are many good things in our team as well - the best is that we improved our concentration.
Gonzalo Pieres Jr.: I am very happy. Now we want to enjoy this win and think about the final. I guess La Dolfina can have an advantage with the extra two day rest, but fortunately we were able to play today. We will be OK and so will the horses. This has been a very even match; fortunately, we could score enough. However, I think we could have sealed the game in the last chukker, but we missed many opportunities. Regarding Open Z Jones, she is one of my best mares, she helped us get the win. She is the whole package: fast and very comfortable to ride.