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Damons does the job

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team took on and beat Spain’s strongest regional team, Catalunya, 1-0 at the Terrassa Sports Club on Sunday.

The regional team fielded eight national players, and the South Africans earned a hard-fought victory through Sulette Damons’s second-half goal in an entertaining game at the picturesque venue.

The South African team welcomed back superstar Pietie Coetzee, who flew in from Johannesburg Friday for her first tour match and she had a great chance in the third minute after superb build-up from Tarryn Bright and Lesle-Ann George but her shot from the edge of the strike zone shaved the wrong side of the post.

In the ninth minute, Marta Fabregas’s speculative shot almost went in off an SA stick and three minutes later SA striker Damons was forced to leave the field after a fearful blow to the finger. Jen Wilson had half a chance of what would have been a spectacular deflection goal and then another soon after as SA found holes in the home side’s defence. Damons then returned to the fray and outstripped the defence only to see her shot go wide of the far post.

Seven minutes from half-time SA were turned over in their defensive third and two penalty corners in succession saw the second deflected wide by diving goalkeeper Mariette Rix’s stick. Catalunya were getting into the game as SA broke down somewhat, although captain Marsha Marescia’s circle entry and pass might have resulted in a goal on any other given day. At the other end Rix brought off a superb save to her right from Maria Romagosa’s strong shot as the teams went into the break all square.

Minutes after the changeover SA endured some agonising moments as Catalunya came close to scoring during a goalmouth melee and in the 41st minute they earned the first of three consecutive penalty corners but SA kept them out. SA forward Kathleen Taylor forced a great stick save from keeper Meritxell Grau but the stopper had no chance in the 46th when Nicolene Terblanche, Coetzee and Shelley Russell contributed to Damon’s simple tap-in for the lone goal of the match.
SA’s number two keeper Sanani Mangisa then replaced Rix in goal and was comfortable with the busy Romagosa’s attempt at an equaliser and stick-saved the Catalan’s sixth PC soon after. The home side replaced their keeper with her number two, Isabel Barguno with 15 minutes left and although Wilson blasted one into the net the Spanish umpires weren’t interested.

In the 61st minute, Catalunya forced their seventh PC but Mangisa was again on hand to keep them out. Three minutes from time Coetzee brought a save out of Barguno and Taylor’s pass saw Wilson’s deflection flash wide of the near post, but the Investec SA women’s hockey team had done enough to secure the win.

Head coach Giles Bonnet was looking for more effectiveness in the attacking third and much of the pre-match preparation was focused on this aspect of the South Africans’ game plan, but this match has left him with much food for thought at both ends of the pitch.

SA left Barcelona for Amsterdam early Monday morning in order to prepare for their Test matches against the world’s top four ranked side the Netherlands on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Their main reason for the tour, the Champions Challenge, starts in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday.


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