The SPAR KZN Raiders made it 7 titles in the last 8 years and a third consecutive crown when they triumphed over a spirited WP Peninsula in the final. They were made to work incredibly hard for the victory in front of a packed crowd at Thomas More College.
The SPAR KZN Raiders had secured their spot in the final through a perfect four games scoring 20 and conceding just two. They would, however, have been surprised at the identity of their opponents for the final. WP Peninsula secured their first ever Indoor IPT final with a shock victory against favourite Northern Blues in the semi-finals.
WP Peninsula won a penalty corner in the opening ten seconds following a pull back, but Nidia Vermeulen was unable to hit the target. The defending champions took the lead when tournament top goal scorer Cailynn den Bakker was afforded space as she peeled off the back and fired home for an early lead. Many of the spectators would have expected the hosts to run into the distance but it was Pens who struck next leveling the game as Silizwe Mxinwa reacted quickest to put the ball away.
Early in the second chukka the WP Pens took the lead through a penalty corner that was mishit by their captain Andrea Leader. The lack of pace proved deceptive, and a remarkable lead was created for the underdogs. Lilian du Plessis created something out of nothing and almost levelled for the Raiders while Ashleigh Thomas fired narrowly wide for Pens.
Both teams failed to test from a penalty corner through good defensive interventions. WP Pens felt a ball into the circle was lifted and as the players stopped for a second Jessica Lardant fired home to restore parity with three minutes remaining in the first half. SPAR KZN Raiders took the lead with less than a minute on the clock, Kelly Reed scoring on her final game for the hosts after 17 years of representing the province. 3-2 at the half-time break.
The SPAR KZN Raiders had an early chance, but Tatum Kroutz and Jess Lardant were both denied by Manisha Desai. Desai then pulled off an incredible save to deny an inevitable goal for Malikah Hamza who had broken through with pace. Desai made another great save before Ashleigh Thomas almost levelled against the run of play.
The SPAR KZN Raiders were then given the chance to double their lead with a penalty stroke. But tournament top goal scorer Cailynn den Bakker was denied by Desai with a good save from an ineffective flick. It was wave after wave of Raiders attack, but the Pens defense was standing firm as the third quarter reached its conclusion.
The KZN Raiders were dominating the possession in the final quarter with somewhere near 80% of the ball denying and suffocating the attack of the Pens while dictating the game. Jess O’Connor was given a yellow card for danger and immediately Pens withdrew their keeper Emily Adams and went for the overlap for the final 90 seconds. Despite an incredible effort from the Pens side they were unable to get the goal and it was a victory and the title for the SPAR KZN Raiders.
Earlier in the day the Northern Blues secured the bronze medal with victory over Western Province, while Southern Gauteng finished fifth with a flawless defeat of North West. The relegation game went the distance and was won on a shootout as Mpumalanga got the job done against the KZN Mynahs.
— SA Hockey (@SA_Hockey) March 4, 2023
Most Promising Junior Player: Tatum Kroutz (SPAR KZN Raiders)
Top Goal Scorer: Cailynn den Bakker (SPAR KZN Raiders)
Best Goalkeepr of the Tournament: Sarah Paget (Southern Gauteng)
Player of the Tournament: Kiana Cormack (Northern Blues)