Day two all about true colours in Premier Hockey League

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Drakensberg Dragons' Cody van Wyk (4) follows the ball as he strikes it. photo Marcel Sigg

Day two of the Premier Hockey League (PHL) was a day of movement on the log, a couple of firsts and a little redemption for some.

With all teams having played at least a game at the end of the first weekend of the tournament, the Blyde River Bunters emerged as the only unbeaten team in the competition after beating the Wineland Wings 3-1 in a shootout.

The win, their second in the competition, also constituted one of the day’s firsts because in playing to a goalless draw against the Wings in regulation, the two teams became the first sides in the tournament’s two-day old history to contest a shootout.

During said shootout, which followed a hotly contested clash in oppressive heat, goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande would emerge the heroine after saving three times against the Wings’ Kaila Flemming and Heather McEwan before timing out Minjon van Tonder.

Mbande’s heroics meant the Bunters now sit atop the women’s standings with six points from two games, with the Wings lying in second on four points, the Madikwe Rangers third (three points) and the Rafters fourth. That it took a shootout for the Bunters to hold on to their unbeaten status speaks volumes about the competitiveness of the tournament.

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Addo Elephants’ Devon Clarke (20) flies through the air as he tries to stop the Garden Route Gazelles’ goal. photo Marcel Sigg

The Rangers are another team to look out for after they counter-punched their way to a 2-1 win in an entertaining clash against the St Lucia Lakers.

Another first to take place on the day was the Garden Route Gazelles’8-2 win over the Addo Elephants, which was the biggest winning total recorded yet. Having been embarrassed 1-0 by the Golden Gate Gladiators, SA Hockey’s men’s Under-21, on Saturday, the Gazelles also had redemption on the mind.

And boy did they get it, thanks to a rampant performance rooted in ruthlessness and relentlessness. They put four goals past a hapless Elephants in the first half alone, thanks to Keenan Horne (twice), Kurt Hensberg and Reece Arendse.

They then snuffed out whatever comeback hopes Ignatius Malgraaff’s goal would have given the Elephants, with goals by Lloyd Norris Jones (two), Tim Guise-Brown and Pierre de Voux.

Richard Pautz’s late goal failed to give the score an air of respectability. That bonus point win (three for the win and one bonus for winning by a clear three goals) took the Gazelles to the top of the men’s log, with four teams, the Gladiators, the Cavemen, Dragons and Mambas all on three points.

There was more redemption on offer for the Drakensberg Dragons, who had walked the plank against the Maropeng Cavemen on Saturday, against the Mapungubwe Mambas.

The Dragons put in easily the most impressive first 15 minutes played in the tournament to date, a period in which they all-but won their game. During that time, their intensity could have wilted the Randburg Astro turf and, coupled with slick, accurate and visionary passing, they were simply unplayable.

Nick Gonsalves opened the scoring as early as the third minute, finishing off a mazy run with the exclamation mark of a reverse sticks flick into Sizwe Mthembu’s goal.

National team captain Tim Drummond followed suit with a diving goal at the far post, before something approaching a response came from the Mambas.

But the strain of chasing the game in the growing heat started telling, with Chad Cairncross scoring the third early in the fourth quarter for the Dragons. The Mambas hit back through Cerezo Comerasamy, but that was consolation stuff.

The final match of the day, between the winless Namaqualand Daisies (SA Under-21s) and the Orange River Rafters proved a staring contest in which the youngsters would blink two minutes from time after Megan Robertson scored to secure the Rafters their first win.

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Blyde River Bunters and Winelands Wings march to battle. Photo credit – Marcel Sigg

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