In what turned out to be one of the most fiercely contested finals in HH the President of the UAE Polo Cup history, Abu Dhabi polo team rallied back with three goals in the final chukka, including a penalty, to beat Desert Palm 7-6 at Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club in Abu Dhabi last Friday. Down 6-4 going into the final chukka, Abu Dhabi turned in what was perhaps their best performance in the tournament and with Desert Palm failing to build upon their lead, the last gasp penalty conversion proved to be the clincher for the powerful side assembled by Faris Al Yabhouni. Led by Rashid Al Bawardy, Desert Palm, which also comprised teenagers Camilo, 14, and Bartolome Castagnola, 17, and the experienced Santiago Laborde, looked to be cruising to victory with just seven minutes of play left.
But Abu Dhabi clearly had other plans as the high handicapped Argentine Alfredo Cappela Barabucci (+9) scored four goals, helped by a brace from Santiago Cernadas (+6) and a lone strike from Santiago Gomez Romero (+3), proved only just enough to clinch what was an absolute cliffhanger. Laborde (+6) led the scoring for Desert Palm with four goals, while Camilo (+4) scored twice for the runners-up. Al Yabhouni said: “It feels amazing. This is something that I have been craving for a long, long time. We’ve won many tournaments but never the HH the President of the UAE Cup, so it means a lot to me and my team.”
Held in the name of The President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and under the patronage of Sheikh Falah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the two week long event brought together some of the leading polo players from around the world. Al Yabhouni added: “All the teams in the tournament were strong. Desert Palm played very good polo all through the tournament and reserved their best for the final. “They were very organised on the field and had good horses. More importantly they employed a clever strategy and did not allow us to play our natural game. “But, unfortunately, we found our rhythm in the final chukka and with the help of small set pieces, were able to turn the whole game around.
I owe this success to my players and the whole team who work behind the scenes to make our job a lot easier.” Desert Palm patron Al Bawardy was disappointed and said: “We lost, but were unlucky. It came down to one goal. Obviously, I am disappointed, as we had the match under control, but in a game sometimes you lose for reasons beyond your control. We’re happy to have played in the final and congratulations to Abu Dhab. The third place play-off played earlier witnessed Ghantoot ADS Securities beat UAE polo team 7-5. Tournament debutant HRH Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum scored once for the UAE. Sheikh Ahmed bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, chairman of the Department of Economic Development of Ajman, was the chief guest at the final.