SA hockey women outplay Great Britain
6 June 2012
South Africa's women's hockey team, superbly led by Marsha Marescia, beat Olympic medal contender Great Britain 3-1 on the first day of the Investec London Cup in Chiswick on Tuesday.
South Africa's Sulette Damons and Bernie Coston scored brilliant first-half goals with a third forward, Jen Wilson, getting on the score sheet 12 minutes from time. Susannah Gilbert replied for Great Britain six minutes from the end, but it was too little too late.
'A fantastic win'
"It was a fantastic win in difficult conditions," South African assistant coach Fabian Gregory said afterwards.
"Our defence was outstanding, as they put us under pressure at times, and while we would have liked more opportunities, we took our chances."
"It came down to who wanted it more," said Marescia. "There was a calmness on the field when GB came back at us and we knew we could keep our lead."
South Africa shocked the home team in the fifth minute when Marescia fed Shelley Russell, who returned the pass at the right moment. Marescia then freed up striker Damons, who cracked a sizzling shot from the top of the strike zone past world-rated British goalkeeper Beth Storry.
Outstanding defensive work
At the other end, South Africa's outstanding defensive work kicked into gear when a composed Kate Woods got South Africa out of a tight spot and then Russell shepherded an attacker out of harm's way.
Lisa Deetlefs, Lenise Marais, goalkeeper Mariette Rix were just three of the South Africans among many who made critical tackles in defence during an enthralling match.
In the 10th minute, Marescia embarked on a scything left to right diagonal run before laying off to Coston, who was cutting in from the right. Having received the pass, Coston blasted a stunning shot off her back foot into the roof of the net, which quieted the home crowd but sent the South Africans leaping with joy.
No way back
With just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest, South Africa ensured there would be no way back for Great Britain when they netted a third goal after an excellent counter-attack.
After gaining possession inside their 23-metre line, the women in green and gold attacked down the right flank. Sulette Damons exhibited stunning pace to round the British defence before crossing the ball to Jen Wilson on the far post, who scrambled the ball over the line.
The hosts scored a late consolation goal when Sarah Gilbert finished from a few metres in front of goal after a swiftly-taken free hit had enabled the British to get behind the South African defence before crossing the ball.
It was far too late to mount a comeback, however, and Gilles Bonnet's charges registered a very satisfactory and morale-boosting 3-1 win over a team expected to contend for the gold medal at the London Olympics.
It should be noted that Great Britain were missing captain Kate Walsh and fellow central defender Crista Cullen, as well as Sarah Thomas and stellar striker Alex Danson, but the win will do South Africa a power of good ahead of London 2012, which is just seven weeks away.
South Africa next meets world number three Germany on Wednesday. With the pools made up of only three teams, Marescia and co are in with a good shout of making the semi-finals.
In the other pool, world number one The Netherlands beat number seven Argentina 2-1 on Tuesday. Ireland is the remaining team in the competition.
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