July 22, 2007
Wise owls win Gold Cup and prevent Loro Piana double
By Iain Forbes-Cockell ("The Major")
Lechuza Caracas, considered by many to be the underdogs in this final, came up with a game plan that stifled the free-flowing Loro Piana style witnessed in many matches this year including their win in The Queen’s Cup. In a match that lasted just short of 3 hours, with several injury breaks and a substitution that required the tournament committee to rule on its validity, Venezuelan Victor Vargas was, after 3 years of high goal in England, able to lift the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup for the British Open Championship at Cowdray, along with team mates Pite Merlos (whose nose and lip required stitches after a serious fall two minutes into the fifth chukka), MVP Sebastian Merlos, Henry Fisher and Tincho Merlos (who substituted for brother Pite).
Lechuza received 1 goal start on handicap, as Loro Piana patron Alfio Marchini’s handicap had been raised at the mid-season meeting from 1 to 2 goals and from the first lineout attacked Loro Piana who fouled.
A penalty 4 was well struck by Sebastian Merlos to score a goal putting them 2-0 in the lead. Just the start they needed to unsettle Loro Piana and by the end of the chukka they had a 4-2 lead.
The game was then fairly even for the next two chukkas, both sides scoring the same number of goals with some close marking and a lot of fouls.
In the third chukka Pite Merlos was knocked off his pony in a ride off and was on the ground for at least seven minutes. At the same time Pelon Stirling had treatment to his wrist, which had been troubling him from early on in the first chukka.
At half time score was 7-5 in Lechuza Caracas’ favour. Pablo Jauretche substituted for Pelon Stirling at the start of the second half and this was the first chukka that Loro Piana scored more than their opponents with the score at the end of that chukka being 9-8 to Lechuza. Then came the fifth chukka, possibly one of the longest on record because of Pite Merlos’ injury, sustained when his pony somersaulted over Pablo Jauretche’s pony, which had slipped, and Pite landed head first on the ground. Pablo Jauretche jumped off his pony in an instant, recognising the seriousness of Pite’s fall.
Pite was treated on the field and then moved off in an ambulance for stitches to his nose and lip. After a variety of substitutes were first found and then declared unfit to play, eventually the two sides and the tournament committee decided to allow Pite’s brother Tincho to substitute.
The match re-started and after some close marking and another short spell of adjusting to new players on the field, Loro Piana eventually were awarded a penalty 4 which Juan Martin Nero duly scored to level the scores at 9-9 going into the last chukka.
A great run the length of the field by Henry Fisher ended with his final shot, hitting a bouncing ball, just going wide. Sebastian Merlos then had a run the length of the field to score a crucial goal to give his team an edge. A failed penalty 4 shot by Juan Martin Nero, unusual for him, must be seen as a lost opportunity.
Seconds later he was displaying brilliant stick-work and only just failed to score. From the hit out, Sebastian passed the ball to Tincho then ran past to receive the return pass just into the Loro Piana half of the field but he was fouled. Sebastian duly scored from the resulting penalty 4 to put his side 2 goals clear at 11-9 with a minute or so left to play.
Loro Piana attacked from the lineout and were fouled near to goal. Juan Martin scored fro the penalty 3 to make the score 11-10 to Lechuza and with only seconds remaining, the teams just got back to the centre for the restart throw-in when the hooter went for the end of the match, Lechuza Caracas winning 11-9.
1. Victor Vargas (1) 2. Pite Merlos (9) 3. Sebastian Merlos (9) 4 Henry Fisher (3) Sub: Tincho Merlos (9)
1. David (Pelon) Stirling (7) 2. Alfio Marchini (2) 3. Juan Martin Nero (9) 4. Martin Espain (5) Sub: Pablo Jauretche (7)
Score: 4-2; 6-4; 7-5; 9-8; 9-9; 11-10.
Lechuza Caracas received 1 & scored 5 penalties plus 5 field goals. Loro Piana scored 7 penalties plus 3 field goals.