Monthly Archives: April 2016
Canadian John Rooney has been playing polo at Eldorado for some time and in all the years he has traveled south for the winter season he has never entered a team in the Pacific Coast Governor’s Cup. When the decision was made last October to play in the seven goal tournaments – for February and March – Rooney insisted that he wanted to put the absolute best team together and be, above all, competitive. Made sense as Rooney is very competitive in what ever he does. With advice from longtime friend and teammate Joe Henderson the decision was made to procure Dayelle Fargey and Team USPA member Jimmy Wright for the two months.
After winning three league titles in three tries during the winter, the Governor’s Cup was next and Rooney’s Northern Blizzard (Rooney 1, Henderson 4, Fargey 1, Wright 1), with an unblemished record in qualifying play, was in the final of the sought after prize. The opponent – with just one loss in the qualifiers – would be Pro Pool graduates Virgil Kyle and Ryan Robertson and their Bush League organization (Kyle, Robertson, Ulysses Escapite 4, Gaston Von Wernich 4).
In front of a very large final day crowd, Northern Blizzard was awarded a handicap goal of one at the start and wasted little time in adding to the bonus as Rooney converted a penalty number three opportunity. Wright was then able to jump out of the middle and score on a 90 yard run and the lead was three very early on. Kyle, on a perfect redirect on a penalty four attempt, brought Bush League back to within one after the first.
Any thought that the outlanders might have taken on more than they could handle in this one was quickly dispelled in the second as Bush League came back with authority in the second and were rewarded with a penalty two opportunity that Escapite easily converted – the only goal of the frame. As a result, the second was over with the northern lead just one at 3 – 2.
Von Wernich brought Bush league even in the third with a goal from the field, but Wright put Northern Blizzard up by a goal once again with another nice run to score and it was 4 – 3 for the Canadians at the half.
Henderson scored his first of the final to give Northern Blizzard a lead of two but Bush League came right back as Escapite counted a pair – a penalty two and a running penalty four that was counted as a field goal and the tally was tied at five going to the fifth.
The penultimate frame featured the most scoring of the contest with five goals. Wright grabbed his third counter and Henderson then scored his second and the northern lead was now a pair at 7 – 5. Von Wernich was able to score from the field to come within one, but another Henderson field goal got the Northern Blizzard two goal lead back at 8 – 6. The country boys continued to fight and the result was a penalty number three conversion for Escapite and it was on to the sixth with a one goal lead for Northern Blizzard at 8 – 7.
The final frame was one of many opportunities and nothing to show – at least in the scoring department. Bush League, a very worthy opponent, had chances to force an extra stanza but were unable to do so. The northerners had chances to ice the cake but could not. The result was a down to the wire one goal victory for Northern Blizzard and the Governor’s Cup was going back to Canada as Rooney had once again struck oil – albeit at a lower price.
With his solid and opportunistic play, Wright earned the title of MVP and Brian, played by Henderson in the sixth was selected as the Best Playing Pony.
As part of the final day season awards, Kyle and Robertson were presented with the Ronai White sponsor dedication trophy.
The 2016 Polo Skins Game – the 21st renewal – featured teams that took distinctly different routes to get there. The Madison Club Polo Team (Jennifer Alexy, Joseph Stuart 4, Jared Sheldon 4, Gaston Von Wernich 4) came into the big game undefeated in qualifying play while Ron Mathison’s Chateau d’Esclans (Mathison, Marcello Rodriguez-Abbiati 5, Marcello Fassetta 5, Chad Bowman 2) arrived the hard way after winning a shootout over Twin Palms and Cotterel Farms. Truth is, however, it doesn’t matter one bit how you get there – it’s what you do when you get there to grab the $20,000 spread among six periods of polo.
The scoring started quickly as Chateau d’Esclans’ Rodriguez-Abbiati took the ball out of the opening throw-in and scampered unmolested to score in the first 25 seconds of play. Not at all phased, Madison Club got that one back as Von Wernich scored his only goal of the afternoon a short time later. Sheldon, on a very fast horse, simply outran everyone to score his first and the count now favored the Madison Club by one. The winemakers were able to come back quickly as Fassetta counted a penalty four and the first ended in a tie at two each to create the first carryover of the day. The second ‘skin’ would be worth $6,666.00. (2 – 2)
The second featured many long runs, spectacular defensive play to prevent goals, and yes, a few dropped balls. Sheldon struck for the only goal of the period on a long run from his own end as he simply couldn’t be caught and the money available was behind the gates of the Madison Club as they led with $6,666.00 to nil. The third would therefore be worth $3,333.00. (Madison Club 1 – 0)
Seemingly buoyed by the win in the second, the Madison Club was able to apply early pressure in the third that resulted in a penalty two conversion by Sheldon. Rodriguez-Abbiati was then able to score his second goal to generate the second carryover of the day and the half was over with no change in the lead and the fourth to be worth $6,666.00. (1 – 1)
With a chance to even the money count in the fourth, the wine makers came out and carried the early pressure which allowed Fassetta to convert two penalty two opportunities. However, Sheldon scored another to narrow the gap to just one. Rodriguez-Abbiati, a Skins veteran, then came back to score his third and shortly after Fassetta counted his fourth and Chateau d’Esclans were on their way to tie the dollar tally. Stuart broke free at the end and scored his first of the afternoon, but the Skin went to the winery and each team had acquired $6,666.00. (Chateau d’Esclans 4 – 2)
With the currency total even, the fifth chukker was pretty much even as well. Stuart scored his second for the Madison Club and Fassetta his fifth for the Chateau and it appeared that another carry over was imminent. Not to be, as Stuart was afforded a 40 yard free shot that he converted and the Madison Club took the $3,333.00 and had now earned $9,999.00. (Madison Club 2 – 1)
Trying to tie the money total, Chateau d’Esclans leaped out in the final frame as Fassetta struck for his sixth goal to lead by one. However, the Madison Club responded with unrelenting pressure that allowed Stuart to crush a penalty four followed by a beautiful goal scoring run by Alexy from the right corner. The now one goal advantage seemed to give the Club an edge as they were able to shut down the wine makers while getting another goal by Stuart. The addition of another $3,333.00 gave the Madison Club the Skins title by a count of $13,332.00 to $6,666.00. ( Madison Club 3 – 1)
As well as winning the championship, The Madison Club, because they outscored Chateau d’Esclans by a count of 11 – 9, took home the Richard Roenisch bronzes.
Based on his very aggressive and contributing play, Sheldon was chosen as the MVP and his third chukker horse, SportsCenter went back to the barn wearing the Best Playing Pony Blanket.