SA hockey women finish well
Dublin - The South Africa women's hockey team beat Ireland 2-1 in the playoff for fifth place at the Champions Challenge in Dublin Sunday.
The two goals came courtesy of Sulette Damons midway through the first half and a penalty in the second half taken by Pietie Coetzee. With 24 minutes left, Ireland's impressive Nicola Symmons scrambled a penalty corner rebound to equalise before world record holder Coetzee flashed in a rocket penalty corner to make the game safe for South Africa.
It was Coetzee's 225th goal in 227 Test matches.
Winners of Pool A, South Africa made it clear from the outset that they meant business as they were up against the hosts and winners of Pool B.
Urged on by their home crowd, Ireland put together a series of accurate, long passes to high-hanging forwards but the South African defence, with right half Nicolene Terblanche particularly prominent, were equal to the task.
South Africa were building their attacks around a short-passing game and several entries into the strike zone brought the best out of a stretched Irish back four, but a Shelley Russell-instigated breakout led to the opening goal by striker Damons.
Irish strikers Julia O'Halloran and Chloe Watkins were keeping the South African defence busy and Watkins did superbly to create space and time for a reverse-stick shot which goalkeeper Mariette Rix saved comfortably.
Kathleen Taylor came close at the other end before Ireland earned the first penalty corner but Rix saved well from Audrey O'Flynn's strong strike.
A deliberate stick check on the industrious Russell in the Irish 23 metre area led to South Africa's first penalty corner but Coetzee's powerful flick was brilliantly stick-saved at full stretch by diving Irish goalkeeper Emma Gray.
Soon after the restart, good combination play earned South Africa another penalty corner and the variation back to corner-injector Tarryn Bright was slick, but the midfielder's slap shot flew to the wrong side of the near post.
With 24 minutes left, Symmons equalised before Coetzee restored South Africa's lead (2-1).
With seven minutes left, a pinpoint Coetzee cross saw Russell's deflection somehow evade the back of the goals.
The final, sees Japan against the US although both teams were comfortably beaten by South Africa in their Pool A games.
The experimental format, introduced by the International Hockey Federation for this tournament, is proving to be unpopular among the competitors as neither finalist would have made it through to this stage of the tournament using the previous system.