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UAE clinch third straight McLaren Cup beating Desert Palm by the narrowest of margins

09/02/2017
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GUILLERMO TERRERA picked up the Most Valuable Player honours as the UAE polo team clinched its third straight McLaren Cup, the first trophy of the 2017 Dubai Polo Gold Cup, with a sensational defeat of Desert Palm at the Al Habtoor Polo Resort in Dubailand. The showpiece final of the first installment of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup had been postponed by a day to Saturday due to inclement weather, but it was worth the wait as the UAE team emerged victorious by the closest of margins. The team, made up of Ali Al Merri, Jack Hyde, Matias Benoit and Terrera, were kept on a tight leash and had to fight hard to ensure the 8.5-8 success they eventually walked off the field with.

Desert Palm comprised patron Tarek Albwardy and three others: Martin Valent, Alejo Taranco and Santiago Laborde, who fought until the end and even led at some stage before the game was taken off them. UAE led 1.5-1 at the end of the first period, but Desert Palm seized the initiative to lead 4-2.5 at the end of the second. They stretched their lead to 6-3.5 at the end of the third, but UAE fought back in the fourth period to regain the lead at 7.5-6. Desert Palm produced a fine performance in the final chukka, but UAE did just enough to ensure an 8.5-8 finish. Benoit and Terrera, and Valent and Laborde were on fire for their respective sides UAE and Desert Palm and each scored three goals.

While Terrera finished as the MVP of the final, Jessica, owned by Ghantoot Polo and whom Terrera rode in the fourth chukka, was adjudged the best playing pony. Taranco of Desert Palm was the tournament’s top scorer with 23 goals. Before the weather could throw the damper on the final day’s schedule and force a reschedule of the showpiece final between the UAE and Desert Palm, the final of the Hildon Cup was played out between teams Mahra and Zedan. Zedan dominated proceedings from the start, leading 3-1 at the end of the first chukka and 4-3 at the end of the second, but they were pegged back by Mahra who levelled scores at 6-6 at the end of the third.

Zedan swung things their way after a tightly fought fourth period to lead 7-6, but a resurgent Mahra hit back strongly in the final chukka to score four unanswered goals and win the match 10-7. Tito Ruiz Guinazu scored five goals for Mahra, while Pablo Mac Donough was Zedan’s top scorer with three. The Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series is an 18 goal handicap competition that is in its eighth year and is being held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

The series is made up of the McLaren Cup and a second tournament, the Julius Baer Gold Cup, which runs from 18 February to 10 March. Tournament founder and patron of the Habtoor team, Mohammed Al Habtoor said: “This year there are seven teams playing in the McLaren Cup and ten teams in the Julius Baer Gold Cup, which is further evidence that the tournament continues to grow. The Dubai Open has helped put the UAE on the world polo circuit. Each year the competition gets better and better and we attract some of the best polo players in the world.”

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