at Kovsies Astros

A day that witnessed yet more intensity of endeavour and plain bravery saw four teams emerge as the only contenders left in the race for national title honours.

And Thursday’s semi-finals in the Boys U18A Section feature Northerns vs WP at 3.30pm and Boland vs KZN Inland at 5pm.

The Girls U18A Section semi-finals will be contested between Western Province and Southern Gauteng at 12.40pm before Boland face Amathole in the second semi-final at 2.10pm.

The girls B Section semi-finals see WP B against EP B and Boland versus Amathole in the second semi-final at 1.05pm..

Limpopo put in an heroic performance to hold fancied Southern Free State to a goalless draw in the girls A Section.

KZN Inland versus EP was a key match, as Inland needed full points to stay in the hunt for gold.

In the 10th Inland Charne Houston latched onto aerial pass before delivering a shot from acutest of angles that breached the goalline.

Both sides enjoyed periods of dominance but, after three days of hard hockey it was more about grinding the decision your way than the pretty hockey of days one, two and three.

Four tough matches in four days takes it out of the most well-conditioned players and few shots on target was the outcome.

EP opened the scoring 45 seconds into the game in a clash that could have implications later in the day.

The talented Michael Forrest, under considerable pressure, stayed strong on the ball before laying off a superb reverse stick pass from the left channel and was rewarded when Emihle Methusi delivered the final touch for Inland to go into half-time 2-1 to the good.

For Inland, Forrest is able to make space for himself and free up fellow forwards while attacking wing back Andile Ndlovu was his usual solid self in both attack and defence.

Forrest was able to do just that midway through the second half before letting rip a thunderbolt which the keeper palmed out of danger.

The tall, rangy forward was a constant thorn in Amathole’s side and this time forced a penalty corner out wide, but his drag flick sailed too frequently wide.

Lise de Villiers enjoyed a great game for EP upfront, full of running down the right wing that had the Inland defence tested to the limit.

De Villiers was rewarded for his endeavour when the pressure he forced on Inland in the danger zone led to a PC and Lauren Hutton did the damage (3-1).

On full-time Forrest let fly with a powerful drag flick which was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Kerryn Frost.

Match two Thursday feature the impressive SWD outfit and a below par Amathole.

This encounter was characterised by plenty of missed opportunities but the effort and intensity could not be faulted.

SWD were eventually rewarded for their remarkable energy with a three-goal blitz of superbly constructed goals three minutes before half-time (4-1).

Border’s second goal, Lutho Lwana was a superb solo effort down the left wing and then along the baseline before striking from the acutest of angles.

Northerns went into this match knowing they had been thrown a lifeline by Boland coming back from the dead to draw 2-2 with KZN Coastal, and they duly delivered the goods.

Inland were able to hold them for a time but the pressure had to tell – and so it did as the Pretoria lads ran out 6-1 winners.

EP opened the scoring in the 10th through a field goal by Andre Potgieter before Inland hit back four minutes later with Carlyle Volmink – an outstanding effort.

Nine minutes into the second half and it was again Northerns who found the back of the sack, Chris Wynford nailing a great goal in which he showed his composure before taking his shot on goal.

Bongani Japha’s strike four minutes from the end was enough to give head coach Ryan Anderson’s team a 3-1 victory –and consign KZN Coastal to the middle four playoffs.

In the 20th the ball was fired into the D and Boland’s Matt Weideman laid off with the most perfect timing for Dewald Raath to deliver the final blow (1-0).

Northerns, who were pinning their hopes on Boland beating KZN Coastal, drew 2-2 with Inland B and it was enough to give them a chance at a last-four spot.

Boland defender Andrew Hobson is a dominating player able to impose his will on the opposition, and the Wine Farmers, all athletes of note, overwhelmingly controlled the first half, while the second half was an utter contrast as Coastal swarmed all over them.

The 1-0 half-time score was not a fair reflection of Boland’s dominance and one couldn’t help but wonder if this would come back to bite them.

It appeared so in the early part of the second half when Boland hit the post, and then it was near-all Coastal who poured through the middle like there was no one there.

A top pass thrown down the middle lane by Dillon Ribeiro saw the same player collect to earn a PC. The slip pass left of the castle was met with venom by Chad Brinkhuys but the white nut cannoned into the crossbar and stayed out.

The second PC saw Brinkhuys pick the ball off keeper William Everleigh’s pads only to effect a miraculous save by keeper Everleigh, who was Coastal’s saviour in that epic second period.

Gilt-edged passes were thrown across the face of goal twice but it was not met by a team-mate’s stick. In the 29th a pinpoint weighted pass down the middle found Chris Coetzee who got in a powerful shot that once again forced a five stop by keeper Everleigh.

Boland did get in a shot at the other end but this time it was the Coastal keeper Brittany Gow who pulled of the save. The Boland circle was peppered with passes and crosses that on another day might have realised a hatful of goals, but it was not to be.

This is the time of IPT where matches need to be ground out if one is to emerge with honour intact. Bodies are beginning to accumulate the side effects of sustained abuse and the extra effort needed brought out the negative side of schools hockey.

Constant challenges to umpires on just about every call became the norm and the officials did well to keep this unfortunate behaviour in check. Coastal thundered another shot into the woodwork but this fascinating contest was not done yet.

Coastal were stretching the compact Boland defence to breaking point on either flank and yet another top chance went awry. Houston came close in the 53rd when arguably the pass of the week by Calla Wilford was threaded through the Boland defensive screen, showing immense composure under extreme pressure.

Yet another sublime pass by Wilford decimated the Boland defence and found Raw, whose shot was comfortably saved before Raw had a shot himself that the keeper saved in fine fashion.

Raw had another great chance a few minutes later and it looked like he along would save the day, but a controversial Boland penalty stroke decision at the death saw the consequent PC fired just past the post. And with 17 seconds left Coastal were awarded another penalty stroke.

This time, Johannes Nieuwoudt buried it and the 2-2 draw had done Coastal a disservice.

SWD simply had too many weapons to be contained by Amathole and ran out 6-2 winners in an entertaining fixture.

Liam Stopforth, Daniel Elliot and Murray Calder got the SWD goals while Chan Meinie notched up the first hat-trick of the week in beating Amathole 6-2.

Meanwhile, Boland, top of Pool A, didn’t need anything from Wednesday’s round and clung on to draw 2-2 with a fired up Amathole 2-2 after dominating the first half yet only having a 1-1 score to show for it.

Coastal came out in the second half a transformed team and cracked in field goals by Chris Coetzee and Franco Carstens in the 22nd and 60th minute respectively. When all seemed lost for Northerns, who were willing on the brave Inland B side to effect a miracle by beating the frontrunners, two penalty strokes were awarded to the Wine Farmers in the last three minutes.

And up stepped Johannes Nieuwoudt to slot the much-cherished equaliser to keep home fans interested.

In the Girls A Section, South Gauteng beat EP 3-2. Southerns took this one after leading 2-0 at half-time and then 3-0 after 36 minutes through goals by Agin Kungoane, Aiden Mailey and Francesca Vercellotti while the late challenge by EP brought goals to Harriet Bisdee and Kelsey Minnaar.

Amathole whitewashed Northerns B 6-0 after leading 3-0 at half-time, this comprehensive performance built on strikes by Michaela Smith, Claudelle McKay, Thando Chithi, Songo Juzana and captain Lelethu Ndakisa plus Tia Klaasen.

WP were too good for KZN Coastal in coming through with a 3-1 win this after leading 1-0 at half-time. The three goals from field play went to Clementine Golding, Teagan Crament and Monya Miller.

Northerns A were shaded 1-0 by KZN Inland with the 44th minute winner coming from Elke Engelbrecht.

In an entertaining game, one of many Thursday, Boland outlasted Southerns B 4-2 after leading 3-0 at half-time. Captain Frances Carstens, Emile Odendaal, Monique Bartsch and Stephanie Botha did the damage. For Southerns the goals went to Gabriella Terblanche (2).

Boys U18:
KZN Inland 3 (Carlyle Volmink, Lethu Mthembu, Bongani Njapha) EP 1 (Andre Potgieter); SWD 6 (Brodie Fanoe, Ethan van Heerden, Daniel Elliot 2, Murray Calder, Chan Meinie 2) Amathole 2 (Dylan Blew, Sam Mvimbi); Boland 2 (Matt Weideman, Johannes Nieuwoudt) KZN Coastal 2 (Hlumelo Mekuto, Mbuso Mgobozi); Northerns 5 (Freddie von Maltitz, Don Ferreira, Brendon van Biljoen 2, Mark Chong) KZN Inland B 1 (Richard Friend); WP B 9 (Michael Madison 5, Dan Burton, Ethan Buhler, Lutho Mlunguza, Matt D’Aguiar) Eastern Gauteng 0; WP 3 (Wes Gardener, Matt Roman, Wade Dollman) Southern Gauteng 0; Limpopo 3 (Khotsofalo Pheko 2, Lereko Mokoena) Northern Free State 2 (Alistair Paterson, Tshediso Kgasho); KZN Coastal B 4 (Josh Cowell 2, Slater Capell, Jeremy Foord) EP B 0; Southern Gauteng B 7 (Jordan MacLachlan 3, Declan Bennett, Slade Bruwer 2, Cody Vorster) Northern Cape 0, Northerns 1 (Puleng Pule) North West 1 (Ryan de Jongh); Mpumalanga 2 (Brendon York, Kosie Kritsinger) Southern Free State 1 (Armand Scorgie); Amathole 3 (Allison Brown, Christy Storm) EP 2 (Jamie-Lee Marais 2, Jayde Harty).

Girls U18: Not available at the time of going to press.

(All played 5)
Girls A Section: Boland goal difference 7, points 15; WP GD2, points 7; KZN Coastal GD1, points 7; Southern Gauteng b GD-4, points 6; KZN Inland A GD-3, 4 points; Northerns GD-3, points 4.
B Section: Southern Gauteng GD20, points 15; Southern Free State GD8, points 8; Amathole GD2, points 7; EP GD-4, points 4; Mpumalanga GD-4, points 4; Northerns B GD-26, points 0.

Boys A Section: Southern Free State B GD6, points 12; WP B GD4, points 9; Northern Free State GD2, points 9; Mpumalanga B GD9, points 7; KZN Coastal B GD-4, points 4; KZN Inland B GD-8, points 3.
B Section: EP B GD5, points 12; Northern Cape GD5, points 10; North West GD7, points 8; Limpopo GD-3, points 4; Eastern Gauteng GD-5, points 3; SWD GD-9, points 0.