La Indiana head to first Cartier Queen's Cup final

Michael Bickford's team upset formbook and will play Dubai in the Cartier Queen's Cup Final

A major upset in the Cartier Queen’s Cup Semi-Finals saw Michael Bickford’s La Indiana power into the final. They were up against the holders, and no doubt favourites to win this match, King Power Foxes, but some great teamwork and sharp shooting penalties fired La Indiana into Saturday’s match. Nic Roldan and Agustin (Tincho) Merlos were especially impressive and Julian de Lusarreta, making his Guards Polo Club debut this year, was always in the right place at the right time. Their patron Michael Bickford was strong too and this team, which has played well for the past three weeks, deserved their finals ticket.

King Power Foxes started strongly with the Pieres boys scoring four in the first. Incredibly this team, which was unbeaten up to this point failed to score at all in the second, while Merlos and Roldan kept firing goals through. The sudden downpour didn’t help King Power’s game, but Tincho seemed to be inspired in the rain and led his team to a 7-5 lead at half-time.

The majority of the spectators expected King Power Foxes to come out in top gear in the second half and they did not disappoint. Gonzalito Pieres converting two penalties, to add to the field goals from both him and his brother Facundo. With only Merlos finding the flags in this chukka, King Power were now ahead 9-8. La Indiana had not read the form book though and dominated the fifth chukka. Such was their dominance that King Power Foxes failed to score at all, ensuring La Indiana had that all-important 12-9 lead going into the sixth chukka. So who was going to cope with the pressure in these final seven minutes? Gonzalito converted two penalties and patron, Top Srivadhanaprabha scored a goal but this was not enough. With Merlos converting a penalty, La Indiana were the winners (13-12) and heading towards their first Cartier Queen’s Cup Final.

Their opponents on Saturday will be Rashid Albwardy’s Dubai. They had a comprehensive win over Lyndon Lea’s Zacara and received the Hubert Perrodo Trophy plus their place in Saturday’s final. Not only were Adolfo Cambiaso and Juan Martin Nero on good form – what we expect from high handicapped players – but Kian Hall and Albwardy were hugely impressive too. Both young players did a fantastic job in defence – often keeping Pablo MacDonough and Lucas Monteverde out of the game. Cambiaso has won the Queen’s Cup a record eight times and is clearly keen to have the chance to extend his honour. He scored 12 of his team’s 16 goals – an impressive amount – and was able to make space around him and used it to devastating effect.

It should be stressed that Zacara were already at a disadvantage before the first whistle. They are without their young English star, Jack Hyde, who injured his hand in a practice game last week. He has been a member of this high-goal team for two years and his absence clearly unsettled the squad. Juan Jose (JJ) de Alba, who had played for the first time in Zacara’s quarter-final game, played well and with confidence, but Hyde’s familiarity with the Zacara team would have added a goal or two. There was plenty of tension in this game too, with the umpires awarding five yellow cards – McDonough, Cambiaso and Nero all received one, but Monteverde received two and so was sent off the field for two minutes in the fifth. He is the first player in this tournament to receive two yellows!

So Saturday’s three o'clock game has all the ingredients of a thrilling final. With the allure of a Cartier watch and the chance to add your team’s name to the trophy – maybe for the first time in the case of La Indiana or for the sixth time for Dubai – we are clearly in for a treat.

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