A single shot. Bartholome Castagnola’s overtime goal catapulted La Dolfina ShowMatch to victory in the 113th Argentine Open. The team, led by Adolfo Cambiaso, was the only undefeated team of the tournament, but they had to work hard to retain the title.

The Open matches began Saturday, November 18, with La Dolfina’s victory over Hurlingham Sheffield Manor 25-11, a match in which Cambiaso tallied 17 goals, surpassing by one his best mark in the Open. Later, the match between El Paraíso and Indios Chapaleufú II entered into the record books. With a recent history of conflicts [their clash in Hurlingham 2005 finished with an injury and suspensions], a whopping 50 fouls were committed. Agustín Merlos, El Paraíso’s forward, reached a new 18-goal record. And the final result [24-17 for the Merlos team] is the highest combined score at Palermo. On the following day, Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra made its debut with a triumph over Coronel Suárez Dufour, 18-10, a misleading result because the Coronels played much better than the score suggested. Soon, Chapa Uno Toyota returned to the victory circle in Palermo for the first time since the 2004 semifinal, when they defeated La Aguada Telmex 13-12 thanks to a Marcos Heguy goal in overtime. Vital to their success were the solidity of Back Juan Martin Nero and the energy of Santiago Chavanne, replacing Horacito Heguy, who fractured his left wrist.

The following weekend, El Paraíso followed its triumphant pace by defeating Hurlingham Sheffield Manor 16-10. After closing the third chukker 10-3, the winners seemed to cruise around in an effort to save their horses, giving rise to quite a boring second half. In the next match, after a pair of even chukkers, La Dolfina ShowMatch attacked furiously. In just one chukker, the team from Cañuelas put themselves up 9-5. Indios Chapaleufú II, with much pride, managed to equalize at 13 by the last chukker. But then it was Adolfito Cambiaso time. A penalty and a lethal field goal sealed their second triumph, 15-14. This match marked the last for Milo Fernandez Araujo, who retired from the Indios Chapaleufú II team after nine seasons with the Heguys.

Chapa Uno Toyota counted their second win, this time 17-8 over Coronel Suárez Dufour. Horacito Heguy played the first half of the match, but with his team up 9-3 was replaced by Santiago Chavanne. Later, in the Cathedral, La Aguada Telmex narrowly defeated Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra 18-17. The Novillo Astrada brothers were ahead practically the entire match, but an extra chukker was needed for Nacho to seal the victory.

Fernandez Araujo watched from the sidelines as Indios Chapaleufú II took its only win in the Open [16-10 over Hurlingham Sheffield Manor]. Pepe Heguy mounted for the last time Polo Pureza, his most veteran mare, which he has had since 1992.

The Open had its first finalist in the match of El Paraíso vs. La Dolfina. El Paraíso played its cards well, but it was not enough against the powerhouse team. While the Merloses neutralized Cambiaso, Mariano Aguerre and Lucas Monteverde managed to take a comfortable 8-3 lead in the fourth chukker. El Paraíso equalized, while tempers were heated [Sebastián Merlos was expelled for verbal abuse]. Cambiaso led his team to a 15-10 margin in two chukkers. The Merloses cut the difference to two goals, but La Dolfina played better in the end and prevailed 16-14, earning the right to defend their 2005 title.

Interestingly, the other finalist obtained their place without playing. La Aguada Telmex surpassed Coronel Suárez Dufour 19- 9 in their first game. They later watched Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra and Chapa Uno Toyota clash, knowing that a victory by a single goal, with fewer than 14 goals for Ellerstina, would send them to the final. Their pleas were heard. The first four chukkers were for the Heguys, who took advantage of the vitality of the younger Chavanne and Nero to make it 6-4. Facundo Pieres gave Ellerstina a second wind and put them up 11-6. But Bautista Heguy led a counterattack and tied it at 11, forcing overtime. In the overtime chukker, Matías Mac Donough scored the winner, making it 12-11 Ellerstina.

The final match was played Saturday, December 9, in front of almost 18,000 people. It was a good game with the drama of injury and the adrenaline rush of an overtime match. In the end, La Dolfina ShowMatch had the extra grit needed to surpass La Aguada Telmex 14-13. The Novillo Astradas had stayed above the marker until the close of the fifth chukker [8-6]. Then, Cambiaso, in a whirlwind lasting 2:25, drove in four goals to take the lead. La Aguada reacted and matched them in the sixth, keeping even until the end of the eighth chukker. In the overtime chukker, La Dolfina attacked first, but Mariano Aguerre’s shot went wide. The Open’s saddest moment was when Aiken Cura, mounted by Cambiaso, broke its left front leg [see sidebar]. It seemed that the four brothers were close to repeating their 2003 title but they failed at a couple of key shots. Cambiaso finally took control when he carried the ball almost 250 yards to near his rivals’ goal. Although he could not get his 12th afternoon goal, the ball was clear for teammate Lolo Castagnola, who seized the opportunity, scoring with a champion hit. The La Dolfina team and their fans erupted into a crazy celebration.

It was the second victory this season for La Dolfina, who had won the Hurlingham Open, also against La Aguada.

But in that match it was Cambiaso who stole the show. Adolfito Cambiaso, in an incredible rush, gave La Dolfina ShowMatch its fourth title in the Hurlingham Open, the oldest tournament in the world.

It sounds redundant, but it is necessary to say it: Adolfito Cambiaso is absolutely different. Like so many other times, at the end of the 113th Hurlingham Open, Cambiaso blasted through to steal the victory.

The oldest Open in the planet had two extra ingredients in addition to good playing: water and injuries. Rain had plagued the tournament from the beginning. It was slated to start October 17 but was delayed three days. The storms caused even more delays, extending the calendar one week beyond the date set for the final. The change of calendar also canceled an 80-goal match scheduled for Palermo.

The tournament began with an ample 21- 9 triumph by Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra over Coronel Suárez Dufour—one of the teams that had to qualify. The second match was played by El Paraíso, who not only succumbed to La Aguada 18-14 but lost its highest-rated player, Agustín Merlos, who was replaced by Mike Azzaro. Then, a fractured fibula sidelined Francisco de Narváez for the entire tournament. He was replaced by Marcos Di Paola. In addition, Pite Merlos had pneumonia. Still, they played well against La Aguada Telmex, a finalist in the Tortugas Open.

They weren’t the only team suffering. Chapa Uno Toyota lost Horacito Heguy to a fracture in his left wrist during a practice. Marcelo Frayssinet replaced him. The change doomed them in their game against their cousins, Indios Chapaleufú II, who overcame them 14-11 thanks to eight penalties and field goal from Eduardo Heguy. Earlier, La Dolfina ShowMatch showed their power, hammering Hurlingham Sheffield Manor 23-7, with 13 Cambiaso goals.

The action followed with another measured triumph of La Aguada Telmex over Coronel Suárez Dufour, 17-11.

Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra and El Paraíso battled in the next match, which sidelined Sebastián Merlos after he fractured his coccyx. This left Pite Merlos as the only original team member. Ellerstina edged them 15-14.

More bad weather caused delays before Indios Chapaleufú II beat Hurlingham 20- 13, after being down 9-6 at halftime. La Dolfina ShowMatch then stopped Chapa Uno 16-13 in a boring match with 48 fouls.

Coming from behind, La Aguada Telmex became the first finalist by defeating Ellerstina Etiqueta Negra 12-11. The Piereses and Mac Donoughs didn’t play their usual classic and gracious game. Earlier, with with Agustín and Sebastián Merlos back, El Paraíso ousted Coronel Suárez 23-14.

The final match, played November 11, at Hurlingham’s Lewis L. Lacey field, was a bit reckless. Lucas Monteverde put La Dolfina ahead 5-3. In the fifth chukker, great teamwork by Eduardo and Miguel Novillo Astrada put the brothers up by two, 8-6.

Then Cambiaso showed his game. He is sometimes impulsive—a hard play by him caused Javier Novillo Astrada to fall. But he is, more often than not, brilliant. He turned up the pressure and didn’t quit until he had put his team to the front with a definitive 10-9 victory.


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