The other men’s teams in the Premier Hockey League have been warned that they will have to fight very hard to take the inaugural title ahead of the Milo Maropeng Cavemen as Rassie Pieterse’s side went to the top of the standings with a gripping 3-2 win over the Schick Garden Route Gazelles in a thrilling match at the Randburg Astro on Sunday.
The top-of-the-log clash dazzled from the outset with the dangerous Lance Louw showing the intent of the Cavemen as he pounced on the ball in the seventh minute, robbing an attacker and then racing forward before finding Cameron McKay with a super reverse-sticks ball which the in-form striker deflected into goal from the penalty-spot.
Lloyd Norris-Jones hit the post after a tremendous run from the halfway line in an attack that was a foretaste of what was to come from the international player in the second and third quarters.
The Cavemen went 2-0 up in the 23rd minute when Jarryd Patrick slotted the ball home to make sure that some lovely skill by Michael Abrahams did not go to waste, but the Gazelles made sure that they were on the scoreboard on the stroke of halftime as Gertjie Lamprecht got on the end of Norris-Jones’ reverse-sticks cross.
The Gazelles pressed hard for the equaliser in the third quarter, a great run by Keenan Horne leading to a string of five short-corners in quick succession, with goalkeeper and captain Pieterse making a couple of great saves.
It did eventually come in the 43rd minute though as Norris-Jones produced another tremendous run and Jason MacLachlan deflected the ball into the goal at the far post.
The Cavemen claimed their third goal – the winner – in the 54th minute as the excellent Louw fired home a penalty stroke. It was a tough call against the Gazelles after Satchi Reddy had lost composure in the circle, swung wildly at the ball and missed, and then brought down Patrick, although it was well to the right of the goal.
But the gutsy Gazelles fought back and another fine run by Horne, keeping the ball through a couple of tackles, finished with MacLachlan flicking home. But the equaliser was referred to the TV umpire and it was a hammer blow when he ruled that there had been a back-sticks play by the Gazelles, although it was not particularly obvious.
The result left the Gazelles a point behind the Cavemen, who have a game in hand, and the pressure is now on Steve Evans’ side as both the Tsogo Sun Drakensberg Dragons and the Private Property Golden Gate Gladiators are just two points behind them, both with a game in hand.
DRAGONS DOWN ELEPHANTS
The Dragons outfit is full of dangerous, skillful players and their short-corner is a particular threat, as they showed on Sunday by beating the Every Sun Addo Elephants 2-0 thanks to two brilliant drag-flicks from the set-piece by Dave Agar.
The national under-21 side is playing under the guise of the Gladiators and is also a skillful, pacy side, with Ryan Crowe a particularly key offensive force, as he showed by being involved in all three goals as they beat the Mapungubwe Mambas 3-2.
The Gladiators were not able to beat marvellous Mambas goalkeeper Hendrik Kriek and his seasoned defence until the 43rd minute, by which time the opposition had taken a 1-0 lead through a short-corner goal by Lyall Meyer.
But the Gladiators equalised as Steven McManus rounded off a Crowe attack. Not to be outdone, Crowe then gave the Gladiators a 2-1 lead showing great skill and producing a superb finish.
But the under-21s were not able to clear their lines in defence soon afterwards, conceding a short-corner. Goalkeeper Robert McKinley made a superb save from the initial flick, but the rebound was popped in by Meyer.
There were just seconds remaining though when Crowe produced a great ball to captain Alex Stewart, who fed Walter Pfaff, the Southern Gautenger flicking into the side-netting for the winner.
In the women’s tournament, the Nestle Pure Life Blyde River Bunters just never accept that they are beaten as they scored their second shootout win of the event, this time in sudden death, to see off the Ezee Tile Madikwe Rangers.
They had to come from behind just three minutes before the end of normal time to level the scores at 1-1, Izelle Verster driving into the circle after picking up a ball deflected out of defence, and passing to Lauren Nina, who made one touch and then produced a great finish inside the near post.
The Rangers had scored the opening goal in the 36th minute as Bernadette Coston intercepted a pass and set off on a pacy run, before Charne Martell won a short-corner. Lisa-Marie Deetlef’s first attempt was well-blocked but led to another short-corner, from which her strong slap headed straight for Jessica de Bruyn-Smith, who could only turn the ball into her own goal.
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the shootout through Deetlefs and Coston, goalkeeper Anelle van Deventer producing excellent saves to deny the first two attempts of the Bunters from Charne Hill and Elmien Marais.
But the next three Rangers – Sinalo Jafta, Sylvia van Jaarsveldt and Toni Marks – all could not find the goal. The inspirational Nicolene Terblanche got the Bunters on the board in the shootout and Anel Luus’s well-taken shot took the shootout into sudden death.
Deetlefs, the heart of the Rangers defence and still every bit the player she was at the 2012 Olympics, unfortunately lost control of the ball as she went first in sudden death. Terblanche, showing the composure befitting the national women’s captain, took her time and found the target, to leave the Bunters five points clear of the Rangers at the top of the log.
The other women’s game on Sunday saw the Young Solutions St Lucia Lakers outlast the Clinix Orange River Rafters 2-0 in the midday sun.
Rafters goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa was usually in the middle of the action, but she could not stop Kaz Bowyer from slapping in at the near-post, having initially saved Jacinta Jubb’s short-corner shot.
It was another tough old day at the office for the Rafters as the Lakers made it 2-0 in the 17th minute, Kelly Madsen making a strong run into the circle and Kate Koenig putting away her ball across the goal.