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SA seal fifth spot

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team beat Ireland 2-1 through a Sulette Damons action goal midway through the first half and Pietie Coetzee’s penalty corner drag-flick midway through the second in the play-off for fifth place at the Champions Challenge in Dublin on Sunday.

South Africa beat Japan 5-1 in a Pool A match and put five goals past the USA in Pool A and in a strange set of circumstances Japan went on to beat USA 3-2 in Sunday’s final.

 

The experimental format introduced by the International Hockey Federation for this tournament is unpopular with all the teams ÔÇô including Japan and the USA, both of whom would never have come close to making the final in the old format and has led to this unsatisfactory outcome. SA are widely regarded as the team of the tournament ÔÇô and have scored more goals than any other team and have player of the tournament in the incomparable Coetzee.

It remains to be seen whether South Africa will be able to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in London as a pre-requisite was for them to make the final of this tournament.

With 24 minutes left Ireland’s impressive Nicola Symmons scrambled a penalty corner rebound over the line to equalise before new goalscoring world record holder and tournament top-goal sharpshooter Coetzee flashed in a rocket penalty corner for her 225th goal in 227 Test matches to make the game safe for SA

It was clear from the outset that the respective winners of Pool A and Pool B ÔÇô who in any other tournament would have gone straight through to the semi-finals ÔÇô were up for this game.

Urged on by their partisan home crowd, Ireland put together a series of accurate, long passes to high-hanging forwards but the SA defence, with right half Nicolene Terblanche particularly prominent, were equal to the task.

SA were building their attacks around a short-passing game and several entries into the strike zone brought the best out of a stretched Irish back four, but a Shelley Russell-instigated breakout led to the opening goal by striker Sulette Damons midway through the first half (1-0).

However, Irish strikers Julia O’Halloran and Chloe Watkins were keeping the SA back four honest. Watkins did superbly to create space and time for a reverse-stick shot that SA goalkeeper Mariette Rix saved comfortably.

Kathleen Taylor came close at the other end before Ireland earned the first penalty corner but Rix saved well from Audrey O’Flynn’s strong strike. A deliberate stick-check on the industrious Shelley Russell in the Irish 23-metre area led to SA’s first PC but Coetzee’s powerful flick was brilliantly stick-saved at full stretch by diving Irish goalkeeper Emma Gray.

Soon after the re-start good combination play earned SA another PC and the variation back to corner injector Tarryn Bright was slick, but the midfielder’s slap shot flew on the wrong side of the near post.

With 24 minutes left Symmons equalised. Midway through the second half Coetzee flashed in a rocket penalty corner to restore SA’s lead (2-1) and with seven minutes left a pinpoint Coetzee cross saw Russell’s deflection somehow evade the back of the goals.


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