The highly anticipated semi-finals in the 2020 King Power Gold Cup did not disappoint at Cowdray Park Polo Club with two thrilling games that came down to the final chukka. Next Generation used a three-goal final chukka to narrowly defeat Park Place Vaara 13-11, while Les Lions/Great Oaks captured the other place in the finals in the 10-9 victory over Park Place.
A closely contested match between Next Generation and Park Place Vaara left little separating the two teams, with the outcome coming down to the final chukka. Both teams scored more goals from the penalty line than from the field as Diego Cavanagh filled in admirably for David Stirling to shoot an accurate 6 for 7 from the penalty line and lead all players with nine goals. A game without many open runs to goal, Next Generation narrowly edged a strong Park Place Vaara team by capitalizing on late foul trouble to claim the 13-11 victory and first spot in the King Power Gold Cup final.
A quick start from Next Generation saw them race out to a 3-0 advantage. Receiving a foul on the first play of the game, Cavanagh converted a penalty 2 to open the scoring, which was quickly followed by Adolfo Cambiaso’s first goal. Facing the early deficit, Park Place Vaara, who has produced one of the strongest offenses in the tournament, responded with three goals of their own, all from Hilario Ulloa. Four fouls kept Park Place Vaara from closing the deficit, conceding three penalty goals to Next Generation and remaining down by three goals. A foul-ridden end to the first half resulted in the two teams trading penalty goals, leaving Next Generation leading by three entering the second half.
Determined to build a large lead and put the game out of reach, Next Generation opened the half with two goals from Cavanagh, who continued his strong penalty shooting performance, leaving Park Place Vaara in desperate need of offense. Reorganizing, Park Place Vaara utilized a balanced offense to score four goals on perfect 2 for 2 shooting from the field and the penalty line in the fourth chukka, reducing the deficit to just one. Two goals from Ulloa gave Park Place Vaara their first lead of the game at an opportune time with just one chukka remaining between them and a spot in the finals. After holding off pressure from Next Generation, Park Place Vaara committed three fouls in the last few minutes, conceding crucial possessions. A penalty 2 conversion from Cavanagh tied the score, and on the following play, Cavanagh and Cambiaso weaved through traffic to restore their lead. As time expired, Cambiaso converted a penalty attempt from 80 yards out, sending Next Generation into the finals with the 13-11 victory.
The elite level of polo carried into the second semi-final between Les Lions/Great Oaks and Park Place with Camilo Castagnola and Facundo Pieres leading their respective teams with five goals each. A strong team defence from Les Lions/Great Oaks made Park Place work for each opportunity, holding the duo of Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres to zero field goals in the second half. An efficient attack from the field, shooting 58% proved to be the difference for Les Lions/Great Oaks in the thrilling 10-9 victory.
Kian Hall opened the scoring for Park Place, contributing to the early 2-0 lead through the first stages of the match with Les Lions/Great Oaks a step behind. Before the end of the first chukka, Camilo Castagnola cut the deficit in half, but it was a short reprieve from the potent Park Place attack as they responded with two quick goals in the second chukka. Hall continued to be a factor in the front of the game on the receiving end of a pass from Gonzalito Pieres to extend Park Place’s lead to three. Camilo Castagnola played a distributor role finding both Santiago Laborde and Bartolome Castagnola to pull within one. Camilo Castagnola and Facundo Pieres traded penalty goals to end the first half, leaving Park Place holding a slim one-goal advantage at 5-4.
A contrast in goal scoring initiated the second half with Les Lions/Great Oaks shooting a perfect 3 for 3 from the field yet committed five fouls that led to two penalty conversions for Facundo Pieres and a tied score at 7-7. A back and forth fifth chukka left the score tied with neither team able to convert their opportunities around goal, setting the scene for an exciting final chukka to determine the second finalist. A missed penalty 3 attempt for Les Lions/Great Oaks gave Park Place the opportunity to take the lead, as Kian Hall’s third goal put them ahead by one. Seconds later, a long pass from Bartolome Castagnola sent Camilo Castagonola on a run to goal, scoring to tie the game at 9-9. Fighting off Facundo Pieres, Laborde pushed the ball forward on the nearside, allowing Camilo Castagnola to come through and score in the dying seconds to send Les Lions/Great Oaks into the finals with the memorable 10-9 victory.