Wellington, Fla. – February 3, 2019 – Newport captured its first tournament title in two years in front of a packed house Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Trailing by as many as four goals in the first half, Newport (Gene Goldstein 1, Tomas Schwencke, 2, Michel Dorignac, 6, Nick Manifold, 3) rallied in the second half for a thrilling 9-8 victory over Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Bautista Panelo, 3, Nick Johnson, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4) in the championship final of the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series.
Newport, after trailing and rallying in all four of its games, finished the month-long, eight-team tournament with a 3-1 record.
Michel Dorignac was named Most Valuable Player after scoring five goals all on penalty conversions including a 60-yarder in the sixth chukker.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough game against a really strong team,” Dorignac said. “We were at a disadvantage because we had a shootout on Thursday and all of a sudden we are in the final and didn’t have time to organize a practice so we had to come to the final without a practice.”
Creciente, a 9-year-old bay mare played by Robertito Zedda and owned by J5 Equestrian, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Veteran pros Dorignac and Manifold, playing well above his 3-goal handicap, sparked Newport’s second-half comeback. It was the first time Goldstein had played with and won a tournament with Manifold.
“It was like having two captains on the field,” Goldstein said. “Nick played a huge part in the game. He knows so much of the game. I have been playing against him for 20 years and I finally got to play with him. He made a huge difference.”
Newport dug itself out of a hole after being shut out in the opening two chukkers and trailing, 4-0. Behind two goals from Dorignac and one from Goldstein, Newport outscored Colorado, 3-1, in the third chukker and trailed by two at the half, 5-3.
“We knew we were going to have a tough beginning and knew we had to be patient,” Dorignac said. “We didn’t get discouraged. We knew at some point we would have our momentum and we were going to come back.”
Newport, dominating the throw-ins, outscored Colorado, 6-3, in the second half. After shutting down Colorado’s offense, 4-0, Newport took the lead, 6-5, for the first time when Dorignac converted a 40-yard penalty with 1:34 left in the chukker. Dorignac converted another 30-yard penalty to end the chukker with a 7-5 advantage.
While Colorado tried to claw its way back, outscoring Newport, 2-1, in the fifth chukker, Newport maintained its momentum and one-goal lead, 8-7 going into the final chukker.
With 5:20 left, Dorignac lofted a 60-yard penalty conversion for a 9-7 advantage. Colorado had its share of scoring opportunities including Zedda’s goal at the 1:29 mark to trail by one, but two Colorado fouls in the final minute proved costly as Newport held on for the win.
Dorignac and Goldstein put the team together at the last minute. Originally, they were not going to play in January.
“We played a practice and then said what are we going to do for the rest of the month,” Dorignac said. “Grand Champions did a great job and was flexible about pushing back the dates. That helped us decide to put a team together.”
For 17-year-old Tomas Schwencke of Chile, it was his first U.S. tournament victory in his young career. He has been playing polo since he was 8.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Schwencke said. “It was amazing we won. In the beginning we weren’t finishing the plays. When we were about to get a goal they would turn the play around and run back. But then we started finishing the plays and scoring goals.”
In addition to Dorignac’s five goals, Goldstein scored two goals and Manifold added one.
Zedda scored a team-high five goals for Colorado. Panelo had two goals and Jornayvaz had one.