14 July 2014
South Africa’s women’s hockey team finished as runners-up in the Investec Cup in London on Sunday after a narrow 1-2 loss to hosts England in the final. The South African men’s team claimed third place after a 3-0 victory over Scotland.
In the women’s final, the English took an early lead from a penalty corner variation, with Nicola White coming in from the right to deflect the ball home.
Alex Danson got a shot in soon after as South Africa struggled to get into the game. However, in the eighth minute, forward Kathleen Taylor saw her shot well saved by Maddie Hinch as Giles Bonnet’s charges began to find their feet.
South African goal
With Shelley Russell causing England problems down the right flank, South Africa struck back in the 16th minute when captain Marsha Cox set Lilian du Plessis free. Du Plessis’ early pass found Jade Mayne and the striker netted superbly, sending the ball high into the net.
England responded by peppering the South African goal zone with a series of attacking plays, but the goal shots yielded no return. The hosts came close in the 25th minute, but Lenise Marais made a goal-saving intervention with fantastic cover.
Turning around at 1-1 it was anyone’s game.
Hit the post
Soon after the restart, South African goalkeeper Anelle van Deventer made a good save from Player of the Tournament Danson and world number six England hit the post from a penalty corner variation shortly thereafter.
South Africa, ranked eleventh in the world, won two penalty corners in succession and Tarryn Bright brought a great save out of Hinch. England fought back with a penalty corner, but this time it was Van Deventer with a classy save.
With six minutes left in the contest, England went ahead again when Sam Quek scored from a penalty corner variation to the left.
A few minutes’ later, her team-mate Sophie Bray hit the crossbar from Danson’s cross and England had done enough to take gold after a tremendous battle.
Scotland picked up the bronze medal after a 3-2 defeat of Wales.
Men’s third place playoff
In the playoff for third in the men’s competition, South Africa and Scotland were level at 0-0 at half-time, but three second half goals took Austin Smith and company to a convincing victory ahead of their opening Commonwealth Games match against the same opponents in Glasgow on 25 July.
Smith netted penalty corners in the 45th and 64th minutes while teenager Dan Sibbald complemented one of a host of inventive attacking moves with a well-taken goal in the 62nd minute.
It was a better South African performance than in their 3-2 win over the Scots in Saturday’s last round-robin match, which was a physical encounter where the sin-bin was a game of musical chairs in the second half, with the African champions being slapped with five cards in total and the Scots with two.
In the bronze medal contest, South Africa should have wrapped up the game with their multitude of chances in the first half, but Scotland goalkeeper Gavin Somerville was in superlative form and kept his side in the match.
Sound in defence
At the other end, the South Africans were sound in defensive situations, limiting Scotland’s goal-scoring opportunities, and as a group there were a host of notable tackles and interventions, notably by outstanding captain Austin Smith, Wade Paton, Jonty Robinson, Rhett Halkett and Jethro Eustice.
With defenders and midfielders providing the vital link, the South African forward line was smart in its running on and off the ball, with Lloyd Norris-Jones outstanding throughout, Lungi Tsolekile earning a number of penalty corners, and Taine Paton continuing the excellent form he had shown throughout the event.
South Africa clicked in all departments -through the defence, midfield and forward lines – and the outcome was a series of intelligently constructed moves that had the Scottish defence groping in vain for answers at times.
England, meanwhile, claimed the Investec Cup title and made it a double for the host nation, triumphing 4-2 in a penalty shootout after they had shared a 2-2 draw with Ireland in the final.