And just like that, we have passed the halfway stage of the 2017 South African Hockey Premier League. Played at the same time as the Hockey World League Finals, the PHL have arrived at the right time for South African fans dying to fill our time with some quality hockey watching. Quality is an apt word for what we saw in week two.

Results of Week Two (W)

Results of Week Two (M)

Game of the Week (W) – Daisies 2-1 Wings

It was not a big goalscoring weekend in the Women’s tournament with defensive strong walls being met by wasteful finishing and that was pretty much the story of the first three-quarters of the match between the Daisies and the Wings. Both teams were desperate to get the win and that desire ignited in the final quarter when Charne Maddocks converted a field goal to put the Daisies ahead. The Wings, who had two defeats to their name before the game, fought back and eventually equalised on the stroke of full time through a Catherine McNulty field goal. With just 10 seconds left on the clock though, the Daisies sent the crowd into raptures when Stephanie Botha fired home a penalty corner to virtually seal their spot in the final four, a vast improvement on PHL 2016.

Picture – Marcel Sigg

Game of the Week (M) – Gazelles 3-6 Gladiators

The Garden Route Gazelles have the scariest attack on paper, but having not played in the opening week had looked rusty in a 3-0 defeat to the Mambas. As the final game of the weekend approached though, they seemed to have it all click as a ruthless opening 20 minutes saw them lead 3-0 through JP de Voux, Brandon James and the lethal Lloyd Norris-Jones. It was all falling apart for the SA U21 men, but they refused to lie down and as they had done to the Elephants 24 hours earlier began a fight back. After pulling one back in the first half they laid siege to the Gazelles goal and were devastatingly efficient on penalty corner duty. Mark Chong scored a field goal to make it 3-2 before Courtney Halle got his first just two minutes later to level the game. With momentum in their favour the Gladiators would score 2 goals in two minutes to make it 5-3 with Maximilian Pike and Halle netting. There was still time for Connor Beauchamp to pop up in the final quarter with the bonus point goal that leaves the Gazelles in serious danger and the Gladiators with a very good chance of progressing to the semi-finals. From 3-0 down to 6-3 winners, you have to love this game!

Goal of the Week (W) – Kelly Reed (Lakers) vs. Daisies

This was a truly fantastic break and as the Daisies pushed forward to look for an equaliser the Lakers were pushing back themselves. A great piece of work saw the ball fall to Stephanie Baxter. Kelly Reed, a dual indoor and outdoor national player, made the brilliant lead run, before pivoting back and Baxter fired it through to her. The ball, however, caught a deflection and in the split second reaction time she had, Reed changed her shape and diverted the ball into the net. It was her second goal of the game in a tournament where she is once again on fire.

Goal of the Week (M) – Julian Hykes (Elephants) vs. Gladiators

The Addo Elephants were charging like a bunch of well, Addo Elephants in the opening game of the weekend against the Gladiators. Knowing that they needed to win to keep their chances of progressing to the final four alive the Elephants stormed out and were quickly 3-0 before Julian Hykes converted a blistering reverse stick strike to make it 4-0. It was a real show of class from the skipper and he will no doubt be delighted with that. They, of course, failed to secure the bonus point and realistically will have to win next weekend with a bonus point to make the final four.

Player of the Week (W) – Celia Evans – Blyde River Bunters

Celia, it appears, is making up for missing out on last years PHL. The Bunters defensive superstar has been in imperious form and picked up a goal in the 3-1 win against the Wineland Wings before scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over last years runners-up the Madikwe Rangers. Evans is in a league of her own in SA Hockey and is using the PHL as a perfect place to showcase her ability. Special mention goes to Kelly Reed (Lakers), Onge Mali (Daisies) and Dirkie Chamberlain (Rafters) for their impressive displays this week.

Player of the Week (M) – Greg Last – Mapungubwe Mambas

Greg has been a constant name in various KZN Raiders teams but has not often been the star attraction. It appears that in the Mambas side he has found a place to step out of the shadows and start becoming the star. He is a man with tremendous ability and once again this week he delivered on that promise. He scored and assisted in the opening match 3-0 win against the Gazelles before scoring again in the 1-0 win against the Elephants. He has also been pivotal in the backline ahead of Richard Curtis keeping the team ahead of the competitors.

Picture – Marcel Sigg

Team of the Week (W) – Orange River Rafters

They entered the weekend knowing that a defeat would spell the end of their final four hopes. They also knew that having only one game in the weekend would leave fate out of their hands as they waited for a whole week for another game. They would take the lead after a classy finish from Sulette Damons, before Sylvia van Jaarsveldt pulled a goal back for the Rangers. Just seconds later they led again. They would constantly threaten through Donna Small and the superb Dirkie Chamberlain and would hang on through a superb display to hold their destiny in their own hands on final weekend!

Picture – Marcel Sigg

Team of the Week (M) – Mapungubwe Mambas

They were not a heavily fancied side for the final four, maybe sneaking in after last years 5th placed finish. But this weekend they proved that the 6-1 opening weekend was not just a fluke. They were superb in their methodical demolition of the Gazelles and resolute in a bruising 1-0 win over the Elephants. What it means is that Krinesan Moodley’s men have already secured a final four spot with two games remaining. They can go a step further when they play the wooden spoon men from 2016 the Dragons. A win would in all likelihood secure them top spot before the end of the group stage! What a turnaround from 2016!

Top Goalscorers (W)

Top Goalscorers (M)

Quotes from those involved

Sulette Damons

“It was a great build-up, really a team effort. I was just lucky enough to get in front and get the touches. So I don’t take the credit – they were definitely team goals. We are very chuffed. We knew it was a very important game and we needed to win it to get a lifeline in this tournament and we did it. The other team most probably thought they’ve got nothing to fear and were humbled. We knew we had nothing to lose, just enjoyed it and gave it our all. Every single one of the team did their part and that led to the victory!”

Sulette DamonsOR Rafters
Shelley Jones

“Definitely the Daisies put us under a lot of pressure and at one stage had six penalty corners in a row so we’re thrilled with our PC defense to keep that all out and very proud of the girls for putting in those last two goals at the end. We just persisted with what we were doing and finally, we knew those goals would come. I think it was still very scrappy at times. I’d like to think that’s what an 8 am game does – still a few sleepy brains – well, that’s my excuse anyway – but I think with each game we know each other a little better and hopefully are honing in on that connection and passes we need to make. I think we can look forward to a better performance next week,”

Shelley JonesSL Lakers
Rassie Pieterse

“We only see the fist pump of Ricky West these days so it was nice to see some of the others scoring goals and getting the celebrations going. It’s awesome to see that energy coming through there. I haven’t seen the stats yet but I’m sure they had a lot of circle and 25 entries so it was a huge defensive effort from us to stop a team like this. My decision-making is so much easier when the guys are marking tightly at the back and I think alot of balls were played straight at me so I got a little bit lucky today but of course, any goal keeper will enjoy a clean sheet so I’ll take that with me and use it as a bit of confidence for next weekend.”

Rassie PieterseM Cavemen
Robin van Ginkel

“It was always going to be a tight one. For both teams it was a really important one to win to try to secure a semifinal so I think there was a lot riding on it. It was always going to be competitive – maybe not that nail-biting – but always competitive. As a young group I think they’re really listening to the game plan and executing it, which is keeping us in the game, and well done to the defence today. They’re a young group and learning quickly. There’s lots of talent, maybe not as much experience yet but the talent and their desire to win definitely makes up for a lot!”

Robin van GinkelN Daisies