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Braves are best

The fourth and final match in the EagleTurf All Star Series II featuring the top 32 men’s hockey players in South Africa went the way of the Brothers Sport Braves on a 3-2 scoreline at Krugersdorp on Monday evening.

But their opponents, the iTrainer Warriors had the last say by winning the penalty shootout 5-4 to clinch the series as the country’s top men pursue their dream of helping South Africa qualify for the Olympics in London next year.

The 2-2 series outcome, after the Warriors’ 5-2 wins in Centurion last Thursday and Sunday’s 3-0 shutout, to the Braves’ 3-2 Friday night victory in the second encounter and Monday’s 3-2 win meant the series was decided on a penalty shootout, which the Warriors won 5-4 in a thrilling finish to a high-class series.

The Warriors led 2-1 at half-time, but the Braves opened the scoring when Julian Hykes of Border’s pinpoint cross was deflected in by Southern Gauteng captain Miguel da Graca.

The Warriors equalised in the 20th minute through a powerful shot from Southern Gauteng forward Owen Mvimbi before provincial and All Star Series team-mate Ricky West took the Warriors lads into a half-time lead with a textbook penalty corner drag-flick.

However, the Braves weren’t done yet and after the changeover Western Province and SA captain Austin Smith rifled in a penalty corner after the pass went left of the castle to equalise, before team-mate Da Graca netted the winner with a penalty corner drag-flick that bulged the net.

But the Warriors had the last say when Northern Gauteng’s Jonty Robinson nailed the winning shot in the penalty shootout with a great strike.

The Eagle Turf All Star Series I in Durban a month ago went to the Braves.

The 32 players are competing in front of the national selection panel for places in South Africa’s 18-man team for the Africa Cup of Nations. The Africa Cup, from 1-10 September in Bulawayo, is the continent’s qualifier competition for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The winners of the Bulawayo tournament are automatic qualifiers as the continent’s representatives at the four-year showpiece.


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