Adrenaline-charged SA hockey men beat Canada

2014-08-04 00:00

THE South Africa men’s hockey team beat Canada 7-3 in the play-off for fifth and sixth place at the Commonwealth Games late on Saturday afternoon.

The scores were locked 2-2 at half time.

World number 12 SA went into the match without the seriously injured Andrew Cronje and Jonty Robinson and short on the all-important rolling subs’ bench. This placed an extra burden on the remaining players, as has been the case for most of the tournament.

But two early shots on goal — the incisive Lloyd Norris-Jones brought a save from keeper David Carter before Clint Panther lashed a shot over the crossbar — set SA’s course. World number 16 Canada then won three penalty corners in succession — all this in the opening six minutes.

Gutsy SA defence kept them out, but Scott Tupper will reflect on what might have been with his gilt-edged opportunity — and to rub salt into it the immensely strong SA midfielder Clinton Panther drove into the strike zone in the seventh minute for Lloyd Norris-Jones to pick up the loose ball and breach the goalline with an excellent shot under the shoulder (1-0).

Norris-Jones and Panther connected once again to win SA’s first PC and the variation back to Austin Smith worked a treat, the captain surely would have scored from the golden opportunity had he not lost his balance on what had become a very slippery surface saturated with rainwater. Norris-Jones then got in a shot and while the goal didn’t come, SA were now well and truly on top of the North Americans.

That changed after two or three SA defenders backed off Canada’s Taylor Curran as he stole around the left-hand baseline before slipping the ball past keeper Rassie Pieterse and it was 1-1 after 17 minutes.

SA keeper Rassie Pieterse made a top-class double save before a minute later (28th) Iain Smythe put Canada into an unlikely lead with a superb diving deflection goal to capitalise on a pinpoint cross from the left wing (2-1).

Two minutes from half-time (33rd) SA defender Rhett Halkett fed the outstanding Panther, who drove with power and skill into the strike zone before getting a flick away, which Tim Drummond helped over the goalline (2-2).

Two minutes after the re-start (37th) Canada went 3-2 up when Gordon Johnstone fired in a PC drag-flick.

In the 49th, SA scored from their eighth PC after a net one-two variation finished off by captain Austin Smith (3-3). A minute later, keeper Carter made a terrific save from another Smith PC, which had been won by a determined Hykes.

An end-to-end move saw Julian Hykes win a PC before the men in green and gold were awarded yet another and the slip left to Wade Paton yielded immediate reward for SA to go back in front 4-3.

SA survived an awkward minute or two that included a Canadian PC before a determined run by Pierre de Voux earned a penalty stroke, with which Rhett Halkett made no error for a 5-3 lead with eight minutes left (62nd).

In the 66th, Lloyd Norris-Jones and Taine Paton got in successive shots before Julian Hykes slipped the rebound past keeper David Carter (6-3) and in the 68th the Canadian defence stood off Norris-Jones to allow the elusive striker time to smash a shot from the edge of the strike zone into the backboard (7-3).

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