After last night’s opening game of the series, much was expected for the second game of the Greenfields International Indoor Series. The International All Stars would know each other’s games a bit better have spent a bit more time together. And like any long distance relationship, there is a little bit of adjustment when you see each other. The All Stars were testament to this statement as one game in things started.
If South African hockey has been guilty of one thing in the past (and we have seen it across various teams at various tournaments) is starting matches slowly and often chasing games. Pierre le Roux has managed to cut that habit out as his men have started both games incredibly well and the challenge will be to make sure they keep the intensity up for a full game and specifically when the subs start to roll.
Reza Rosenberg has started to look at home in the green and gold and was a big part of the opening goal combining with skipper Matt Fairweather to set up a delighted Wade Paton to finish. But having found his range in the first game Mo Furste quickly fired home to level the score. A frenetic bit of action saw SA head back up the other side and Matt Fairweather fire in a low penalty corner to re-establish the lead.
South Africa were well and truly fired up and spurred on by a partisan crowd produced the best team goal I have seen them score as Mohamed Mea, Robyn Jones and Wade Paton interchanged quick passes, with a perfection that would have made my grade 8 maths teacher proud, leaving Keagan Robinson the task to tap it into an empty net.
The All Stars were awarded their first penalty stroke of the night, they would receive four in the night, but Richard Curtis pulled out the most incredible save to deny Mo Furste. Teun Rohof though would almost take on the Optimus Prime role of leadership and drove the team forward. His ball to Furste for a deflected goal was world class and deserved a bigger celebration than the passionate Dutchman gave it.
One of South Africa’s best players on the night, spurred on by his 3 month old son watching him play, Justin Domleo then scored a superb solo goal when he robbed Robert Tigges and slalomed his way into the D for a shooting opportunity that left Laurens Goedegebuure with no chance. At this point South Africa were trading blows with the best in the world and deservingly led. The All Stars however had one more gear and when they shifted so did the destiny of the game.
Robert Tigges, Benni Wess (Penalty Stroke & Field goal) & Mo Furste, completing his second hat-trick turned the game on its head in 5 minutes overturning a 2 goal deficit into a two goal lead. The lead was quickly cut back to 1 goal by a great solo goal by Reza Rosenberg to take the score to 6-5 in favour of the All Stars. Richard Curtis had conceded 6 goals but was having a blinder for South Africa, just underlining the superiority the All Stars possessed. There was time for two more goals for the All Stars before half-time as Mo Furste netted his fourth and Benni Wess completed his hat-trick before Mo Mea made a brilliant goal line save to keep it at 8-5 at half-time.
At half-time the All Stars received words of wisdom from their coach / MC / dishwasher and kit man John McInroy as well as Cyril the Squirrel, who was adamant that he be given the next penalty stroke. These words seemed to work as the All Stars emerged as a truly All Star side in the second half. Okay, they didn’t, but a superb goal by Justin Domleo certainly did as following his goal the All Stars implemented a game management that the All Blacks would be proud of.
Sjoerd de Wert got his first goal of the series from a penalty stroke, before a Wess brother special was set up by Timo for Benni to deflect home his fourth. South Africa were producing chances as frequently as SANRAL produce eToll bills, but were converting them as much as the public pay these eToll bills. As South Africa continued to toil for a gap, Nicki Leijs created his own in setting up fan favourite Robert Tigges to score a great goal.
Austin Smith, the other crowd favourite, then played a centre role as a great run from him set up an easy finish for Nicki Leijs, who still made sure of it by roofing it superbly. SA then had their own penalty stroke which was denied by Goedegebuure and Moritz Furste would go smash away another two, one which was almost the Scarlet Johansen of goals in that it was so easy on the eye.
If there were two men that deserved a goal for their displays tonight it was Rohof and South African hockey superstar Austin Smith, and the latter got his to the delight of the crowd. There was still time for Wade Paton to get a yellow card from umpire Peter Caulder for what can be confirmed as “being too pretty” a violation in terms of article 13.4.2 of the Indoor Hockey rules. I didn’t check the reference.
As the game fizzled to its conclusion both teams pulled of their keepers to give Justin Domleo some practise in shot stopping, but it was SA who headed up the other side and Jethro Eustice got the consolation goal in a humbling defeat. 15-7 the final score in favour of the All Stars and a 2-0 lead in the 4 match series.
“The game was tougher than last night, the All Stars definitely came firing tonight. I was really happy that we went ahead at the start as in the past we often chased games from the start. It’s a step in the right direction.” Shared Justin Domleo. And on the fact that his son was there “It was so amazing having them here to support me and it makes me incredibly happy!”
“The game was a bit similar to yesterday when we started slowly again, but we got back in the game and started to chip away at it” shared Dutch World Cup winner Sjoerd de Wert “I am delighted to get on the scoresheet as it was a goal for me for the series, to match my goal in Durban last year!”
“That was the fastest game of indoor hockey I have ever umpired” Peter Caulder, one of the umpires for the series, “The All Stars is insane. The skill level and intensity is absolutely amazing!”
Tomorrow is a rest day for the players, who will be appearing at the PSi opening function of the U16 and U18 Nationals before the third match takes place at UCT on Tuesday night at 19:00.
This article was initially written for PSi Hockey and published on their social media and website. All images are courtesy of PSI Hockey or from courtesy of Sports 24 Seven.