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Hockey sides go down

Our men’s and women’s hockey teams both suffered defeats ahead of the London Olympic Games which start later this month.

The men’s side went down 5-3 to Spain in Santander while the women’s side went down 6-0 to Great Britain at Bisham Abbey in England.

Coach Gregg Clark’s men were playing in their penultimate match of their European tour in Santander, reports Sapa’s PJ van Rooyen.

The South Africans had to recover from a narrow 6-5 loss to India on Sunday evening, less than 24 hours before they met Spain on the newly-laid blue turf.

Spain opened the scoring nine minutes in the half after Pol Amat picked up a turn-over ball inside the SA half, ran toward the SA area and slotted home past goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.

SA came back after the restart with a well-worked attack, Rhett Halkett finding striker Ian Haley who got past his marker, leaving only the Spanish keeper Francisco Cortes to beat, but Haley shot just wide of the mark.

Spain took control of possession, but the SA defence held firm, with Pieterse making a fine save in the 13th minute to keep his side in the game, before making another brave stop a minute later from a Spanish penalty corner.

SA regrouped as they went in search of an equaliser, which came in the 18th minute of the half following a penalty corner save, which Julian Hykes picked up before unleashing a shot at goal, beating Cortes to level the game.

The visitors looked to control the game, which they did thanks to a solid defensive effort which set-up the midfield to dictate throughout the middle of the half.

Spain did manage to take the lead into the break after they were awarded their third penalty cprner of the half, which Pau Quemada scored, beating Pieterse down low to regain the lead.

SA came out into the second period chasing the game and started brightly, dominating possession in the opening exchanges.

The pressure led to Clinton Panther scoring his first goal of the tour after great vision from full-back Lloyd Madsen found Rhett Halkett, who passed to Jonty Robinson before he and Hykes dribbled into the Spanish area with Hykes flashing across the goalmouth, finding a faint touch from Panther, who steered over the line for the 2-2 equaliser.

Pieterse remained solid as he was forced to pull off a diving save from Spain’s fifth penalty corner.

Skipper Austin Smith’s presence in the midfield allowed SA to find space and time, with Smith shooting just wide of goal after a superb run through the middle and into the area.

Spain crept back into the lead in the 56th through Eduard Tubau who scored his first of the afternoon into the bottom of the goal box to give Spain the lead for the third time in the afternoon.

Spain’s celebrations were cut short however, after Smith made another piercing run through the midfield before laying-off to striker Lloyd Norris-Jones who had the Spanish defence at sixes-and-sevens as he unleashed a shot towards goal, Tim Drummond picked up a touch on route to goal, leaving Cortes with no chance as the ball sailed into the roof of the net.

Spain came back five minutes later and scored their fourth through Quemada for his second of the game from Spain’s sixth penalty corner, before Tubau completed his brace a minute from time after good work from Roc Oliva found Tubau waiting in the area, to slot home past Pieterse.

Meanwhile Jon Cook reports that a three-goal blitz after just 12 minutes knocked the stuffing out of our women’s side.

A Crista Cullen penalty corner was followed by an Alex Danson field goal before Cullen made it 3-0 with GB’s second PC. Near the end of the half, Danson set up Sarah Thomas for a tap-in at the far post.

Turning around 4-0 down, SA had a much better second half with a number of good opportunities. But it was GB who found the net via a razor-sharp Danson goal before Cullen completed her hat-trick with a well-struck shot off a PC rebound.

SA were up against it from the outset with captain Marsha Marescia (ankle) and Jen Wilson (leg) being rested, Kathleen Taylor not 100% and Kate Woods and Shelley Russell coming straight to the ground after flying from SA to London.

Apart from Georgie Twigg (tight hamstring) the Brits were at full strength with the return of the outstanding Danson and Cullen, as well as captain Kate Walsh, making a marked difference to the side beaten 3-1 by SA at the Investec London Cup a month ago.

Playing high-octane hockey with impressive ball speed and switching of play, GB used the full length and width of the field with high-hanging, lateral-running strikers complemented by defenders releasing the ball from deep, ensuring valuable space for the midfielders to set up attacks.

It wasn’t easy for SA to break out of defence in the first half although world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee (241 goals in 245 Tests) did have a PC saved by keeper Beth Storry and the pacy Bernie Coston and Russell had their moments down the left wing.


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