The South African men’s hockey team chalked up their second win of the Olympic Qualifier Tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan on Saturday when they ground out a 6-2 victory over an obdurate Czech Republic after leading 4-1 at half-time.
The ugly, ill-tempered affair did not do justice to the most beautiful of spring days and sin-bin cards did little to cool tempers.
Justin Reid-Ross took his goal tally to six in the tournament with a field goal and penalty corner, while field goals from Tim Drummond, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Lance Louw and Thornton McDade completed the SA scoring. Martin Seemann and Stepan Bernatek netted field goals for the Czechs.
Second-favourites Japan beat the Czechs 6-0 on day one while top seeds South Africa had accounted for minnows Brazil 11-1. The stakes rise significantly for SA Monday when they take on third-favourites China at 6.30 pm (11.30 am SA time).
In the third minute an inspired Andrew Cronje through-ball to Julian Hykes was followed by a strong Ian Haley snap shot, which brought the first penalty corner.
Reid-Ross made no mistake, his drag-flick ricocheting off keeper Filip Neusser’s glove (1-0).
In the seventh minute the disruptive Czech defenders couldn’t stop Hykes from threading his way through for Drummond to finish (2-0). Haley then set up Wade Paton whose reverse-stick rocket flashed over the crossbar.
With SA playing all the hockey, the match threatened to get ugly as delaying tactics negated the free flow of the game and a Czech was consigned to the sidelines, but completely against the run of play Seemann did very well to pull a goal back (2-1).
Lloyd Norris-Jones got in two shots and Hykes ones as SA regained composure, and with seven minutes left in-form SA skipper Austin Smith set up Norris-Jones for a great goal, the striker running intelligently into space before finishing with aplomb (3-1). Martin Babicky shot just wide at the other end before Smith teed up for Lance Louw to nail SA’s fourth after the left-side defender had stolen up the left flank unnoticed (4-1).
With two left SA keeper Rassie Pieterse saved from Stepan Bernatek before first wave Jonty Robinson ran down the Czech’s first penalty corner, to prevent potent drag-flicker Tomas Prochazka from making his presence felt. On half-time SA’s second penalty corner was comfortably saved by Neusser.
Five minutes after the changeover the Czechs grabbed a rare bite of possession and Bernatek buried his shot into the backboard (4-2).
With 20-odd minutes left, both sides squared up toe to toe and tempers threatened to boil over into something extremely serious. Vilem Topek was sin-binned.
Drummond won possession and SA came close to scoring their fifth as the entire Czech team were massed in the defensive third. More sin-bin cards were dished out. Undaunted, SA kept playing the hockey and Reid-Ross scored from out left, further underlining South Africa’s massive advantage in entries into the strike zone (5-2).
Five minutes from time the Czechs won a hotly disputed penalty corner and then another as tempers again flared to breaking point, and the slip left to Bernatek was palmed away by Pieterse. Then Hykes pressured a Czech into error and strike partner McDade finished superbly (6-2). — Sapa