If day one of the 2021 IPT was an item off the menu of the great hockey restaurant, it would have been called some witty reference to gluttony as goals flowed easier than opinions on social media. And in fairness after the drought that had ensued there was always likely to be an overflow of action as teams returned to the pitch.
If you were looking for more gluttony on day 2 you would have come to the wrong place. On the menu for day 2 was emotional roller coasters and the agony and ecstasy of sport.
In the opening game of the day the Northern Blues were looking to extend their winning start and looked on course after Izelle Verster made it 1-0 with an expertly deflected goal from a Tegan Fourie Drag flick. Free State, looking for their first win of the tournament were superb in their fight back and were rewarded with an equaliser in the 34th minute. A poor foul gave Tanya Britz the chance to equalise from the spot and although the keeper made the save it wasn’t a strong enough arm to deny the Free State parity.
As the game was heading towards a 1-1 conclusion the Northern Blues found inspiration from a what can only be described as a familiar source as Kim Hubach popped up as the hero. A penalty corner variation was swept to Hubach who fired home expertly for the goal that would ultimately decide the tie.
If that late goal was heart breaking for Free State, it would be more of the same in game two. A superb performance from the WP Pens looked to deny the SPAR KZN Raiders the win but Lilian du Plessis was the hero with a goal in the final minute of the game to win it 2-1.
Du Plessis had opened the scoring in the 4th minute, and many would have thought they were merely going to march their way to a convincing win. After soaking up pressure and defending superbly the hosts managed to pull level in the final chukka. Cailyn Maree converted from the spot after the ball hit Jess O Connor on the line.
It was du Plessis who laughed last, loudest and pretty painfully for the Pens as she hit a wonderful reverse stick shot into the net with merely seconds left on the clock.
The SA U21 side showed their intent to not just gain experience at the IPT but also potentially compete for the title with a wonderful 4-1 win over Eastern Province. Mikkela le Roux got a brace that was perfectly sandwiched by a brace from Hanrie Louw as the TK emblazoned team comfortably built a four-goal lead.
There was a late consolation goal for Ciara Frances but the U21 side were good value for a very good win.
In the main course / headline fixture of the day it was the age-old battle between Southern Gauteng and Western Province. This is as big as it gets in South African provincial hockey as taxi’s stop, ubers flutter and Checkers Sixty60 changes their delivery route in order to catch a glimpse of the grudge match. A major grudge match can often leave you with disappointment, but these two tagged up together to produce a classic.
Nompilo Thenjwayo opened the scoring in the 12th minute for the Gauteng side after picking up a ball in the D and bundling it into the net. The Southerns ladies were still in celebration mode as the quarter wound down, but Western Province produced an outstanding counterattack that Julia Hoal netted with a sublime striker.
The score would remain deadlocked until the final quarter when the question was simply asked, who will make this moment count. The answer was a resounding Southern Gauteng. A quick move saw Sylvia van Jaarsveldt strike, her shot was saved but Thenjwayo was wonderfully positioned to tap the ball home. She would be delighted with her contribution on a big day for the 2018 winners.
Lezaan Jansen van Vuuren made it 3-1 and put the victory almost in the bag with a walloping shot on the follow up of a penalty corner, but there was time for a colossal finish as Province made it 3-2 through Nicole Koenig firing through a busy circle. With just seconds on the clock there was not enough time for the comeback to be completed and it was 2 out of 2 for Southerns.