Today a year ago, Ricky West was getting married to the love of his life. This year he was slotting in a pair of goals to lead his Maropeng Cavemen side to a 3-2 victory over the Addo Elephants on the second day of the Premier Hockey League in Johannesburg.
And his wife, Coral, can expect an even bigger anniversary present after the defender was handed the man of the match cheque after the game for his efforts.
“It’s a special day – it’s our one-year wedding anniversary today so gifts all round – a bit of money, two goals and a win so a very lekker day. I already got her something nice this morning but now she knows I’ve got a bit more budget,” joked West.
It was a match that was a repeat of last year’s final, and it certainly lived up to expectations. The defending champion Cavemen had to come from behind twice in the match to claim the win. And having had yesterday’s rain-ruined match against the Garden Route Gazelles reduced to a shootout which they lost, this was an important win.
“Going down quite early in the first chukka put us on the back foot. Last year we had to fight to come back in a lot of games so I think a lot of that is still coming through,” explained West, who scored both his goals from penalty corners. Lungani Gabela was the other scorer for the Cavemen. “We didn’t get a run yesterday so we were a bit rusty, but we were building in every chukka which is a good sign for us.
“At half time the game was very much in the balance and then we came out and moved the ball a bit better. We got a bit more ball to our forwards, which was an objective for us.”
Cavemen coach Mark Sanders was always confident his team would pull off their all-important first win of the tournament. “It wasn’t really in doubt but we made it difficult for ourselves.
“The heat started creeping in for both sides. But that’s the final from last year so a bit of a grudge match and we ground it out. After watching that video from yesterday, I don’t think they themselves played particularly well, but they turned it around quite nicely and made it an incredibly competitive battle,” he added of the Elephants’ first match in which they went down 4-0 to the Drakensburg Dragons on Saturday.
Meanwhile, there were some frayed nerves earlier in the day when the clash between the Madikwe Rangers and the Wineland Wings was decided with a shootout. Daniella Rhodes had scored for the Wings in the 19th minute and Lilian du Plessis levelled matters in the third quarter for the Rangers to see the teams deadlocked at 1-1 at fulltime. All drawn PHL matches automatically go to a shootout, which on this occasion was won by last year’s runners up – the Rangers.
“I always say every game I age about five years and this one was no different,” admitted a relieved Rangers coach Tsoanelo Pholo afterwards. “It wasn’t our best start and it doesn’t help getting a card [for captain Louise de Jager] in the first three minutes. A 10-minute yellow was always going to put us on the back foot but I think we did very well to come back in the second half.
“We came here for three points and we got our three points. Winning a shootout is great for team morale and it was very exciting. Winning is a habit – it doesn’t matter how it comes so we’re happy.”
Du Plessis, who apart from her regular-time goal also scored the Rangers’ second successful goal of the shootout, added: “There was a bit of tremoring during the shootout but I’m feeling good now after the win. The last five minutes of a game when you’re drawing are very tense because nobody wants to go to a shootout, but we’re mentally preparing ourselves for it in the last minute or two.
“We’re really happy. Obviously we want to set a benchmark so this first game was really important because I think we’ve done that now.”
The match between the Namaqualand Daisies (SA U21s) and the Orange River Rafters also looked like it was headed for a shootout after the latter clawed their way back from 3-1 down to level the scores with a minute to go in the match. But Kristen Paton slotted one in just a matter of seconds later to hand the Daisies their first win of the tournament.
It did take a shootout for the Drakensberg Dragons to beat the Golden Gate Gladiators though, after they finished the game on 2-2. The Dragons took the shootout 3-1 to notch up their second win.
There was also a second victory for the women’s defending champions, the Blyde River Bunters, who defeated the St Lucia Lakers 3-1, thanks to a brace from Thati Segaole.
Premier League action continues at the Randburg Astro next weekend.
Top T Madikwe Rangers 1-1 (2-0 shootout) Wineland Wings
Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 3-2 Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants
iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies 4-3 Orange River Rafters
Pro-Grip Drakensberg Dragons 2-2 (3-1 shootout) iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators
Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 3-1 Private Property St Lucia Lakers
photos: Marcel Sigg