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Champs in derby draw

Tuesday’s A Section of the SA Men’s Interprovincial hockey tournament at Randburg kicked off with a thrilling KZN derby between twice-defending champs Coastal Raiders and Inland, with the Pietermaritzburgers disappointed that they had to share the points after the 2-2 final score.

This means that Wednesday brings a host of vital pool at Kaspersky Park in Randburg, this after Tuesday’s exciting action threw up some potentially far-reaching outcomes.

Four matches are scheduled: Kaspersky Southern Gauteng meet reigning champs KZN Coastal Raider, Western Province and Northerns face off, Eastern Province tackle WP Peninsula and KZN Inland are up against Witwatersrand.

Inland, with 34-year-old captain Darryn Gallagher orchestrating from the centre, had more shots on goal and more penalty corners but the unavailability of SA Under-19 marksman Grant Glutz due to matric studies at Maritzburg College cost them as too many chances went astray. Despite their early dominance, Raiders took the lead against the run of play when David Zwemke deflected past Rohn Barron after an accurate cross from the left.

The 18-year-old James du Plessis had an impressive IPT debut and another strong run down the right brought Inland’s third penalty corner on the half-time hooter, from which a penalty stroke resulted. Hotly disputed it was by the Raiders but Olympic Games umpire John Wright was decisive in his decision after consulting with colleague Sean Rappaport. Beijing Olympian Gallagher rifled the set-piece into the roof of the net.

Without captain Wade Paton and drag-flick kingpin Gareth Carr, the Raiders stuck to their task in impressive fashion under central defender Lloyd Madsen and his deputy Michael Botha, the latter now into his 10th IPT.

But the potential gamebreaker came from Inland 11 minutes after half-time when Matt Coombes accomplished a stunning inside pull which eliminated his marker and created the opportunity for lively Devon van der Merwe to feed off striker Gavin Jelley and 2-1 was the upshot.

The raiders came back well and right half Greg Last’s accurate aerial balls, plus Taine Paton’s hard graft in the engine room alongside the more cerebral Tim Drummond was bringing reward. Sihle Ntuli was in the thick of things as well, while Raiders team-mate and keeper Gowan Jones was in top form in producing a glove save from Karl Oftebro’s low flick off Inland’s seventh penalty corner. At the other end Inland centre back Jethro Eustice was a tower of strength, but Raiders’ third PC three minutes from time saw Last fire the slip left past a partially unsighted Barron for the equaliser.

And a minute later, Barron brought off a phenomenal glove at full-length to his right from Drummond to leave a superb game of hockey deadlocked at 2-2.

Classy Echelon Western Province beat WP Peninsula 7-1 with SA striker Ian Haley netting twice and national captain Austin Smith and provincial skipper Andrew Cronje putting in quality performances.

ÔÇ£We were good in finding each other and keeping the ball alive, which created space,ÔÇØ said WP head coach Pierre le Roux. ÔÇ£Everyone had a good game, all 16 had a good run, which is what you want in your first IPT game and there were no injuries.ÔÇØ

WP have a crunch Pool B clash Wednesday when they take on Northern Blues, who were surprisingly held to a 0-0 draw by a gutsy, inexperienced Eastern Province.

ÔÇ£If you draw or lose in this format you then have to scramble for a last-four berth,ÔÇØ said Le Roux. ÔÇ£You must win two of your three pool games to make certain of reaching the semi-finals, otherwise Thursday’s last pool match becomes a quarter-final.ÔÇØ

The Northerns lads would have been disappointed that they drew with EP but finishing was the issue, while EP will have been heartened with the performance of their untried combination and on another day could have pulled off a major upset ÔÇô one penalty corner effort flashing past the right side of the post near the end was all they needed.

The late game saw Kaspersky Southern Gauteng beat Witwatersrand 2-1 in a typically hard-fought derby.

Southerns’ Stuart McDade with a crisp shot from field play after 15 minutes and a typical Ricky West penalty corner eight minutes after the changeover brought the goals for last year’s fourth-placed side, while Ryan Roberts got Wits on the scoresheet towards the end.

RESULTS

A Section: KZN Inland 2 KZN Coastal 2; Western Province 7 Peninsula 1; Northerns Blues 0 Eastern Province 0; Southern Gauteng 2 Witwatersrand 2.

B Section: KZN Inland B 2 KZN Mynahs 2; Amathole 6 SA Country Districts 2; Southern Gauteng Shumbas 4 Southern Cape 3; Eastern Gauteng 2 Southern Gauteng Nuggets 2.


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