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SA lose in final

They gave it their all but the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team ended up going down 2-0 to world champions Argentina in the final of the Four Nations tournament in Parana, Argentina early on Monday morning (SA time).

Las Leonas (the Lionesses) led 1-0 at half-time through Rosario Luchetti’s field goal and Sofia Maccari got the second after the changeover.

“If one of our second-half penalty corners had gone in, it might well have changed the game,” said SA head coach Giles Bonnet afterwards. “The team stood up well against one of the best teams in the world and I am proud of the commitment and courage they showed.”

The packed crowd made deafening noise at times ÔÇô chanting and singing in tune in better times. Flags waving, confetti flying, firecrackers splitting the night air, drums beating incessantly, it was a tough nut for SA to crack. World number 12s South Africa were truly up against it in looking for their second win over Leonas in nine attempts during the past two years.

SA’s hardworking right half Nicolene Terblanche, in her 51st Test match, is spirit personified while Sulette Damons was showing the same steel as she was playing with a broken finger up front. However, the injury ensured the striker was never able to show her true colours. SA were again without 2010 SA Player of the Year Lesle-Ann George (ankle) but Shelley Russell did her best to play despite hamstring problems.

SA started well, moving the ball smoothly, captain Marsha Marescia in top form, along with a host of her team-mates. Kathleen Taylor nailed a shot from the right just past the post in the opening 10 minutes after Marescia had supplied the pass.

Leonas kept probing and threatened with their swift-passing game and incisive running, but the SA defence made it difficult for them to make a mark. Two corners came and went, but Leonas drew first blood when Luchetti benefited from a neat move in confined space for the opening goal towards half-time.

SA continued threading some nice moves together and three minutes into the second half Bright’s shot tested the keeper, but Leonas got way soon after and Maccari broke free to net the second goal (2-0). Leonas were getting into their stride and defender Illse Davids made a great save while keeper Mariette Rix pulled off a couple of her own.

The girls in green and gold worked tirelessly to get back into the game and won two penalty corners as well as having chances from field play but the Leonas defence was able to stem the flow.

It was our girls’ second final in the space of a week, having lost the previous Four Nations final 3-1 to Leonas in Buenos Aires the week before.

The bronze medal match between world number 13 India and world number 14 Ireland was played in conditions more suited to Delhi than Dublin, India beating Ireland 4-1 after the scores were locked 1-1 at half-time.
It was a heartening result for India, who will be Investec South Africa’s chief rivals at the Olympic Qualifier tournament in Delhi from 15-26 February, where the winners will earn a berth at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Ireland will also be gunning for an Olympic spot at their qualifier in Belgium early next year and they are already looking forward to the Investec Series of matches at Randburg Hockey Stadium beginning mid-January, which also features South Africa, Spain and Belgium.

The SA team jet back to Johannesburg on Thursday.

INVESTEC SA TEAM VS ARGENTINA

Mariette Rix, Kate Woods, Illse Davids, Tarryn Bright, Jade Mayne, Shelley Russell, Kathleen Taylor (all Western Province); ┬áMarsha Marescia (capt), Lisa Deetlefs, Bernie Coston (all Southern Gauteng); Sanani Mangisa, Nicolene Terblanche, Dirkie Chamberlain (all Northern Blues); Sulette Damons, Celia Evans (both North West); Liesel Dorothy (Eastern Province).ÔÇ¿Injured: Lesle-Ann George (Free State).

FOUR NATIONS RESULTS
Wednesday ÔÇô Investec SA 2 Ireland 2; Argentina 3 India 1.

Thursday ÔÇô India 2 Ireland 1; Argentina 2 Investec SA 1.
Saturday ÔÇô Investec SA 2 India 1; Argentina 2 Ireland 1.

Sunday ÔÇô Bronze medal: India 4 Ireland 1.

Monday (SA time) ÔÇô Gold medal: Argentina 2 Investec South Africa 0.


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