Four teams entered the much-anticipated semifinal day of the Gold Cup for the British Open Championship at Cowdray Park Polo Club, beginning with Great Oaks LL against UAE Polo Team. Both teams led at different moments throughout the match, but it was a strong finish from UAE Polo Team that propelled them into the finals, defeating Great Oaks LL 12-10.
Finishing with identical 47% shooting accuracy from the field, little separated Great Oaks LL and UAE Polo Team in the tightly contested match that ultimately came down to the final chukka. Generating a few extra opportunities from both the field and the penalty line, UAE Polo Team turned a two-goal deficit at halftime into a two-goal victory. Polito Pieres led all players with five goals, while the efficient play of Tomas Panelo in the first half kept his team within reach. Trying to return to the finals for the second consecutive year, Great Oaks LL relied on the play of Bartolome Castagnola, who provided a combination of runs to goal and accurate passes, finishing with four assists. However, the UAE Polo Team defense held Great Oaks LL to just three second half goals to complete the victory and claim the first spot in Sunday’s final.
A rapid pace was set in the opening chukka with zero whistles and 10 combined shots, treating spectators to thrilling end-to-end action. UAE Polo Team ended the first chukka holding the narrow 3-2 lead with goals from Pieres, Panelo and HH Sheikha Maitha, overcoming the passing attack of Great Oaks LL that converted both of their shots at goal. The lead remained at one in favour of UAE Polo Team as Panelo was on the receiving end of two passes from Pieres, while Great Oaks LL converted the first penalty of the game on a Penalty 2 conversion from Cruz Heguy. The momentum switched to Great Oaks LL as they scored the final four goals of the half, dominating possession in the final stages to keep UAE Polo Team off the scoreboard and use a well-rounded offense to surge into the 7-5 lead at halftime.
The tense moments of the semifinal featured both teams fighting for a spot in the final and it was UAE Polo Team that increased their defensive pressure to erase the two-goal deficit and pull even. Pieres converted a Penalty 4 for UAE Polo Team’s first penalty goal of the game, while the defense was anchored by Tomas Beresford, holding Great Oaks LL to a single goal. Foul trouble became a factor for Great Oaks LL as they conceded possession and UAE Polo Team took advantage, scoring three consecutive goals to begin the fifth chukka, completed Maitha’s second goal as she made her impact at the front of the game. A field goal for Castangola ended UAE Polo Team’s run, but his team trailed by two entering the final chukka. Quickly answering a Pieres goal with a safety conversion, Great Oaks LL remained within reach but were unable to race past a tough UAE Polo Team defense. As time ticked down, UAE Polo Team maintained the two-goal separation and celebrated the hard-fought 12-10 victory.