Words by: Jonathan Cook
The South Africa women’s hockey team put up a skilful, courageous performance but a dominant second half was enough to earn world number four New Zealand a 5-2 victory after a fortunate 2-1 lead at half-time in the Commonwealth Games bronze medal match at Glasgow’s national hockey centre in Scotland Saturday night.
Photo credit: Gavin Withers
SA had very good opportunities to make early inroads but goal-making passes went astray. Then it was Kiwi speed queen Anita Punt’s turn to skin the SA defence out wide in winning the match’s first penalty corner, but SA skipper Marsha Cox intercepted the variation and relieved the pressure with aplomb.
In the fifth minute the Black Sticks went 1-0 up when Anita Punt blasted a rebound off keeper Anelle van Deventer’s pads into the back of the net.
In the 13th, with the rain teeming down, a trademark Lisa Deetlefs aerial led to Kathleen Taylor winning SA’s first PC but the Kiwis cleared the danger.
Lenise Marias and Tarryn Bright had made vital tackles to stop New Zealand at the other end before Taylor’s deft touch won a second PC for SA but the upshot was Bright pushing an excellent chance past the wrong side of the post.
In the 23rd, Bernie Coston cleverly won a third PC for SA and Marsha Cox’s disguised shot-pass to Bright resulted in a penalty stroke which the skipper converted (1-1).
The rain now bucketing down and the ball barely making any purchase on the sodden turf, the Kiwis’ Krystal Forgesson deflected in the second of successive PCs to put her side 2-1 up in the 25th minute. Soon after, SA won yet another PC but the Kiwis survived.
With the slow ball speed across the turf negating the high-tempo game both teams favour, it forced a tactical re-think as the long ball was less effective.
SA had dominated the first half, getting in seven goalshots (including five PCs) to New Zealand’s three but 2-1 to the Black Sticks it was, and six minutes into the second half Gemma Flynn was desperately unfortunate not to increase their lead but the post got in the way.
There had been a very good spell for the Kiwis but the in-form Dirkie Chamberlain and company kept grafting away and a superb Tarryn Bright tackle and offload brought delight to the SA camp when a clever Sulette Damons pass in the 42nd minute gave Kathleen Taylor space out left to slap a backhand shot past goalkeeper Sally Rutherford for the 2-2 equaliser.
Van Deventer made two excellent saves shortly thereafter before Bright fed Chamberlain, who delivered a powerful cross from the right that almost brought a goal.
With 15 minutes left (55th) the delight went to the other way when Jordan Grant’s adept touch put New Zealand 3-2 up, and in the 62nd Gemma Flynn was on the end of a PC variation to give the girls in black a two-goal cushion (4-2).
Anelle van Deventer made four great saves before Damons came close at the other end but the killer blow was dealt three minutes from the end (67th) when Jordan Grant’s spectacular goal following Flynn’s superb through-ball put New Zealand out of sight at 5-2.
SA finished fourth, as in 2010, while New Zealand ended with bronze after silver in Delhi.