Two exciting semi-finals brought victories for Top Srivaddhanaprabha’s VS King Power team over Park Place and Ali Albwardy’s Dubai against Scone Polo, taking them to Sunday’s Gold Cup final – a repeat of the 2014 showpiece.
VS King Power, who have added VS to the team’s name in memory of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who lost his life in a helicopter crash at Leicester City’s stadium in October 2018, altered their line-up for the final.
Vichai’s son ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha was No1 as usual, but Polito Pieres took the No2 slot, Marcos di Paola moving up to three and Juan Martin Zubia playing at back.
Dubai kept their line-up unchanged with 16-year-old Camilo Castagnola at one, Rashid Albwardy at two, Bartolomé Castagnola at three and Ignacio du Plessis at back.
Chukka one opened with Pieres immediately on the attack, his first attempt at goal going wide. A couple of minutes of frantic action resulted in a penalty being awarded to Dubai which Camilo Castagnola sent from 30 yards to secure the opening goal of the match for his side.
A lovely steal by Polito was the making of goal No2, with Zubia picking up the ball and sending it between the posts. Polito won the ball from the throw and tore to Dubai’s end to make it 2-1 for King Power.
Camilo and Bartolomé Castagnola produced three goals in chukka two, and, with just one from Pieres for VS King Power, it ended with Dubai 4-3 ahead.
A fast and tough chukka three saw a spot penalty awarded to KVS King Power in front of Dubai’s goal, which Polito sent through to equalise, but Bartolomé answered with two goals for Dubai and at the end of the first half it was 6-4 in Dubai’s favour.
The massive crowd went out to tread-in and when the fourth chukka got under way, a fantastic piece of play saw Polito Pieres leave the ball for Zubia, who obliged with a huge lofted shot to score goal number 11 for VS King Power.
Rashid Albwardy won the ball from the throw-in but di Paola grabbed it back, Zubia stopped Bartolomé from snatching it while di Paola came through and passed to Srivaddhanaprabha, who made a superb goal to make it 6-6.
Another fantastic goal from Srivaddhanaprabha and King Power were ahead. A 30-yard penalty awarded to King Power just as the chukka was drawing to a close enabled Polito Pieres to extend the lead to 8-6.
A frantic fifth chukka saw spot penalties produce a goal for each side before a fantastic shot, hit from way back, saw Polito Pieres take VS King Power on to 10-7. His next goal came from a 60-yard penalty and it was 11-7 in VS King Power’s favour.
Dubai won the next throw-in but with Bartolomé challenged by Pieres, his young brother coolly slipped through and scored, the chukka ending at 11-8 to VS King Power.
The sixth chukka opened with a swift goal from Camilo, then it was his brother’s turn to shoot a mighty goal. Camilo won the ball from the throw-in and there was a scramble in front of VS King Power’s goal which resulted in a whistle.
Bartolomé calmly sent the ball through the posts from 60 yards and it was 11-11. The excitement levels grew.
VS King Power won the throw-in and Pieres scored to take his side into the lead again. Srivaddhanaprabha saved the ball from Dubai’s next attempt at goal, but, aided by the power of du Plessis, Bartolomé evened up the scores at 12-12 before the whistle blew.
The match went into a seventh chukka. Away went Zubia with the ball, but du Plessis struck out for the other end. Srivaddhanaprabha made a great clearance, the ball taken on by di Paola, Pieres and then Zubia who raced away to Dubai’s goal only to send the ball wide.
Off down the boards raced Bartolomé, the wonderfully intuitive combination with his brother which we have seen throughout this Gold Cup tournament coming to the fore as Camilo dived forward with the ball and put it through.
Dubai had won the King Power Gold Cup 13-12 in breathtaking finish.
Jon Rudkin, director of football for Leicester City FC, presented individual prizes to all players, tournament umpires and commentators before handing the coveted Gold Cup to Rashid Albwardy, son of the Dubai patron.
The MVP award went to Pieres of VS King Power; Open Chacota, owned and played by Srivaddhanaprabha, was voted best playing patron’s pony, and Rebalde, owned and played by Camilo Castagnola, was awarded best playing pony of the match, with a rug presented by Lila Pearson.
Ali Albwardy, patron of Dubai said: “It was such an exciting match. I’m proud of all the boys in this young team, they played fantastically – in fact, both teams had a wonderful match.
“The game was entertaining to watch, hard, fast and exactly what polo should be. I thank Cowdray Park Polo Club for their fantastic organisation of the tournament.”