Orchard Hill downs Flexjet and wins bracket;
By Alex Webbe
Orchard Hill (Facundo Pieres, Julian de Lusarreta, Juan Martin Nero and Steve Van Andel) demonstrated the firepower that won them the C.V. Whitney Cup in March as they rolled over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Agustin Merlos, Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan) 14-8 to win their bracket of play and earn a bye into the semifinals of the tournament. Orchard Hill took the field with a 2-0 record and looked to sew up a semifinal position in the tournament over a winless Flexjet team with losses to Lucchese (13-11) and Audi (11-7).
Facundo Pieres opened the scoring with a 40-yard penalty conversion in the first minute of the game followed by a goal from the field from Juan Martin Nero, 2-0. Agustin Merlos converted a 40-yard penalty shot for Flexjet at the 4:04 mark, cutting the lead back to a single goal, 2-1. Nero’s second goal of the chukker came with 1:16 left in the chukker and gave Orchard Hill the early 3-1 advantage.
Nero ‘s third goal of the game came with just 1:12 off the clock in second chukker action. Pieres added a 30-yard penalty conversion midway through the period for a 5-1 lead. Agustin Merlos scored the final goal of the chukker on a 60-yard penalty shot to trail Orchard Hill, 5-2.
A 40-yard penalty goal from Agustin Merlos had Flexjet to within two goals of the lead when the Orchard Hill offense exploded for four straight goals. Piers scored back to back penalty goals (one from 30-yards and the other on a 60-yard safety) followed by single goals from Nero and Julian de Lusarreta. At the end of the first half it was Orchard Hill with the six goal, 9-3 lead.
The two teams traded goals in the fourth chukker with Pieres scoring on a pair of penalty shots (one from 30-yards and the other from 60-ayrds). Flexjet got a goal from Agustin Merlos and was awarded a goal on a Penalty 1 called against the Orchard Hill team. The period ended with Orchard Hill maintaining their six goal lead, 11-5.
The Orchard Hill onslaught continued into the fifth period with consecutive goals from Pieres Nero and de Lusarreta for a commanding14-5 lead. Agustin Merlos closed out the scoring in the fifth with a 60-yard penalty goal, but Orchard Hill owned the game, 14-6.
Flexjet attempted a sixth chukker rally but Orchard Hill wasn’t having any of it. With the Orchard Hill team concentrating on defense and saving their horses for next week’s semifinals, the Flexjet was limited to penalty goals from Agustin Merlos and Melissa Ganzi for the 14-8 final.
Pieres was the leading scorer for the game with seven goals (six on penalty conversions). Nero added five goals and de Lusarreta was credited with two goals for the win. Agustin Merlos scored five of his team-high six goals on penalty conversions; Ganzi scored once on a penalty shot and the team was awarded a goal on a Penalty 1.
The victory boosts Orchard Hill into the semifinals of the US Open.
Audi 8, Lucchese 7
Earlier in the day Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Fred Mannix) built up a 4-2 halftime lead over Lucchese (John Muse, Nico Pieres, Magoo Laprida and Sapo Caset) but had to put down a late game rally to secure the 8-7 win in the third round of play in 2016 US Polo Open Championship action Thursday morning at the International Polo Club.
After three minutes of play, Sapo Caset scored the first goal of the game for the 1-0 Lucchese lead followed by a well-placed backhander for a goal from teammate Nico Pieres, 2-0. Freddie Mannix got Audi on the scoreboard with 54 seconds on the clock to end the first chukker trailing Lucchese, 2-1.
Both defensive units were on their game in the second chukker with goals at a premium. A foul on the Lucchese team sent Gonzalito Pieres to the penalty line where he attempted a 60-yard shot at goal. The shot was blocked and sent wide where it was recovered by Rodrigo Andrade who scored the tying goal for Audi in the opening two minutes of the period. The goal would prove to be the only score in the period. The score was all even at 2-2 after two chukkers.
Audi took control of the game in the third chukker Gonzalito Pieres scored on a nearside shot on goal from 15-yards out for Audi’s first lead of the game, 3-2, and Andrade followed up on a run by Gonzalito Pieres to give Audi the 4-2 lead. A solid defensive effort by the Audi team kept Lucchese off the scoreboard for the second consecutive period as they fell behind by two goals at the end of the first half.
Both teams played tough defense as the fourth chukker got underway. Gonzalito Pieres finally broke the scoring drought with a 60-yard penalty conversion at the 2:06 mark to make it 5-2 when the Lucchese offense began to stir. Nico Pieres (younger brother of Gonzalito) scored from the ensuing throw-in, 5-3 and Caset added another goal with just 19 seconds on the clock to pull Lucchese to within a goal of the lead, 5-4.
Midway through the fifth chukker Nico Pieres tied the game at 5-5 with his third goal of the day. Gonzalito Pieres countered with the final goal of the chukker with just 18 seconds on the clock. Going in to the final chukker of regulation play, Audi was defending a delicate 6-5 advantage.
An Audi foul at the 4:32 mark proved to be costly as Caset converted a penalty shot from 40-yards away to tie the game at 6-6. A minute later the Argentine 10-goaler put Lucchese into the lead for the first time since the opening chukker on a goal from the field, 7-6.
Gonzalito Pieres tied the game with just under three minutes left in regulation play on a 40-yard penalty shot, 7-7. With both teams battling for control of the ball, Audi rushed the Lucchese goal. Gonzalito Pieres and Andrade got their mallets on the ball, sending it to the front end of the lineup to find a streaking Marc Ganzi open and ready to take the pass. Seconds later, Ganzi drove the ball through the goalposts for the final goal of the game and an 8-7 Audi victory.
Gonzalito Pieres led the Audi attack with four goals (two on penalty conversions). Andrade added two goals and Ganzi and Mannix were each credited with a goal for the win. Caset’s four goals set the pace for Lucchese (one on a penalty hit), with Nico Pieres adding the other three goals in a losing effort.
The win boosts the Audi record to 2-1 while Lucchese falls to 1-2.
Action continues in the 2016 United States Open Championship with mini-quarterfinals on Sunday featuring a noon game between White Birch and Lucchese followed by a 3pm match between Audi and Valiente. The winners will go on to face Orchard Hill and Dubai in the semifinals on Wednesday, April 20th.