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Six goals as SA draw

Two goals up at half-time our Investec national women’s hockey side had to settle for a draw against Belgium at Randburg on Sunday.

Four goals in the last five minutes made for an exciting climax to the two-Test series.

SA kept world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee in cotton wool for the fifth consecutive match and strikers Dirkie Chamberlain and Lauren Penny scored in the first half before Stephanie de Groof and Jill Boon made it 2-2 five minutes from the end. SA then went 3-2 up through Tarryn Bright before Anouk Raes’ equaliser for the 3-3 final result.

Belgium won the first Test 3-1 on Saturday and needed at least a draw while SA had to win to level the two-Test Investec Series, this after the girls in green and gold had comfortably won the Investec Tri-Nations Series five days earlier with Belgium runners up and Ireland third.

Sunday’s clash was a high-level exhibition of women’s hockey at its best and saw SA netted first-half goals through 100-up Test match strikers Chamberlain and Penny in the 12th and 28th minutes respectively.

Just 30 seconds into the match Chamberlain got the first opportunity but didn’t connect. Three minutes later Belgium built down the left and captain Charlotte de Vos got in a shot and the first penalty corner, which was disallowed by London Olympics-bound SA umpire Michelle Joubert for the initial shot being too high after SA captain Marsha Marescia had parried it beautifully on the goalline.

In the 10th minute Joubert dished out a ÔÇ£custard sliceÔÇØ sin-bin yellow card, to Alix Gerniers for dissent and SA had an extra player for five minutes in this high-octane game that both sides were desperate to win ahead of their respective Olympic Qualifier Tournaments, SA leaving for Delhi on 15 February.

Impressive SA right half Nicolene Terblanche won SA’s first PC in the 12th minute and a superbly worked set-piece saw Chamberlain deflect in to the net from Kate Woods’ pinpoint shot-pass (1-0).

Midway, Belgium came agonisingly close on two occasions with the superb Sofie Gierts and Barbara Nelen prominent, the initial top-class move brilliantly intercepted by Shelley Russell. With 17 left to the break outstanding SA centre back and Investec Player of the Series Woods nailed yet another pinpoint pass from deep, and a lovely move through Marescia, Jade Mayne and Chamberlain saw the 100-up Northern Blues player nearly add her second.

On-fire right half Terblanche, the farm girl from Groblersdal, won another PC and SA then won a third, which Woods drilled towards the far post for Penny to get the touch with seven minutes to half-time (2-0).

Seconds after the break the skilful De Vos almost pulled one back, while Terblanche fired a great pass across the face of the goal that SA didn’t quite latch on to. Marescia then set Terblanche free with a perfectly weighted pass and the right half’s cross came within centimetres of the waiting SA sticks.

SA’s fourth PC saw another precise move and Bright was inches off giving the girls in green and a three-goal cushion. Just 13 left and another neat SA move with Bernie Coston, Kathleen Taylor, Bright and Penny involved almost brought a third goal but did at least win SA’s fifth PC, keeper Aisling D’Hooghe making a brace of sharp saves.

Belgian created a stir when they subbed their keeper and brought on an extra field player, one of the 11 on the pitch now playing ÔÇ£kicking backÔÇØ and SA nearly made it three when a Sulette Damons effort from close was scraped away from the goalline. Belgium’s extra-player advantage nearly paid off when De Vos earned a great reaction save from SA keeper Mariette Rix but their second PC brought a De Groof goal with five minutes left and seconds later Boon equalised (2-2).

Belgium brought their keeper back on, a wise move as they led the two-Test series 1-0 and only needed a draw. However, with just over two minutes left Joubert played a brilliant advantage after top work by Marescia and Bright put SA back in front (3-2).

But seconds after the re-start Raes drew Belgium level (3-3) in this incredible hockey match.


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