Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 27, 2019 – The first finalist for Sunday’s World Polo League Founders Cup championship was determined on a rain-soaked Tuesday afternoon at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Playing its best game of the tournament, Grand Champions (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Juan Martin Nero, 10) rallied in the second half for a 12-9 victory over Scone (David Paradise/Santino Zedda, 0, Guillermo Terrera, 8, Alejandro Taranco, 8, Pelon Stirling, 10).
The victory advances Grand Champions into Sunday’s final at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club Field 2 against the winner of Wednesday’s Valiente-Colorado game.
It will be the first 26-goal final for Ganzi, 20, and Bollini, 22. Last season Ganzi, Bollini and Nero were U.S. Open semifinalist for U.S. Polo Assn.
“We just kept saying, let’s go, let’s go,” Ganzi said. “This game is not going to end in the fourth or the fifth. It’s going to end in the last few minutes and that’s what happened. We just needed to keep pushing at the end.”
In a battle of unbeatens, Grand Champions fell behind early in the first half and trailed 5-3 after three chukkers. Paradise was forced to leave the game with 4:21 left in the second chukker with a mild concussion after his horse lost its footing. He was replaced by Santino Zedda.
Grand Champions turned it around in the second half playing tight on defense and not allowing Scone’s three offensive threats, Stirling, Taranco and Terrera to strike at will from any where on the field and outscoring Scone 9-4 in the second half.
After the fourth chukker ended at 7-7 with Bollini scoring with 30 seconds left, Grand Champions kicked it into another gear in the final two chukkers.
Bollini continued his scoring spree with back-to-back goals with assists from Andrade for a 9-7 lead. Stirling converted a 60-yard penalty to cut the lead to one, but Bollini connected with Andrade for a goal and 10-8 lead at the end of five chukkers.
“We really wanted it,” Bollini said. “We came out and refocused ourselves after our last game. We played it chukker by chukker. This is huge for us, it’s amazing, this is what we all wanted. This is definitely the best game our team has played. We reached a new peak. Today we really showed what we can do as a team. If we play like we did today, I think we have a pretty good chance in the final.”
Stirling scored his fifth goal of the game on a angled 75-yarder with 2:03 left to cut the lead to one. Andrade came right back to score for an 11-9 lead. Ganzi scored with 59 seconds off the throw-in with a big neck shot to put the game away.
“We played so much better in the last three chukkers than the first three,” Nero said. “I think the key was Granti and Juancito played amazing. They scored some beautiful goals and we played an open game and that’s why we won. We started hitting the ball and that made a difference.
“We all deserve to be in the final,” Nero said. “We are all working to get there. We want to try to win. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Grand Champions, now 3-0, got balanced scoring. Andrade led with four goals, Bollini and Nero each had three goals and Ganzi added one.
“This is huge to be in the final,” Ganzi said. “This is my first 26-goal final. I was a little nervous before the game today. I don’t know why, the nerves really set in. I think it hit me, this is the semifinal game, I got to come play, this is a whole different level than the 20-goal. I was happy to close out strong and was really happy how the horses went.”
Ganzi and his teammates will be in attendance to scout the Valiente-Colorado game on Wednesday.
“They are both really tough teams,” Ganzi said. “Whichever one we get we will have to play accordingly.”
In addition to Stirling’s five goals, Taranco had three goals and Paradise added one for Scone (2-1).
The WPL is being live streamed on ESPN Deportes and ChukkerTV/Horseplay with Gus Whitelaw calling the action. For more information go to www.worldpolo.org.
Co-founded by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi and Valiente Polo Farm owner Bob Jornayvaz, the World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina. The WPL is preserving the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the U.S.
The WPL has its own set of simpler fan-friendly rules to improve the flow and action of the game.
The WPL, with 14 tournament-quality fields to play on, includes the Feb. 19-March 3 Founders Cup, March 6-24 Palm Beach Open and March 27-April 14 Triple Crown of Polo.
The WPL game finals will be held Sundays on Field Two at Grand Champions at 4 p.m. and semifinal games at Valiente Polo Farm, Fields One and Two. Several games will also be held throughout the week at various times. Admission is free along with food and refreshments at the featured games.
The World Polo League is open to other teams that wish to compete in one or more of the tournaments. Entries are still open and everyone is welcome to play. Games are offered on the flat (Open) and on Handicap.
The World Polo League has attracted a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Uruguay and U.S.