SA men lose to Ireland
Lisburn, Northern Ireland - The South African men's hockey team lost their opening match of their European tour to Ireland 4-2 on Thursday evening in the first match of the Celtic Cup.
The South African side struggled to cope with slippery surfaces and at times lacked composure in the final third of the pitch, with passes and shots not finding their targets in the Irish area.
Ireland opened the scoring in the sixth minute after a precise pass from the midfield found Michael Watt in the South African area. Watt laid it off to Timothy Cockram who scored past SA goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.
South Africa were awarded their first penalty corner of the game five minutes later with drag-flick specialist Justin Reid-Ross driving a low shot into Irish keeper, David Harte, but a goal-mouth scuffle resulted in another penalty corner, which SA fumbled in the Irish area.
Ireland doubled their lead in the 18th minute after the hosts were awarded a penalty corner for a South African infringement.
Pieterse saved the initial shot from the Irish attack, but a further infringement by a desperate South African defence resulted in a penalty stroke being awarded to Ireland, which Irish midfielder John Jermyn stroked home.
The visitor's had their first real opportunity four minutes later, when they too were awarded a penalty stroke, which SA defender Andrew Cronje unfortunately missed, hitting the crossbar as a golden opportunity went begging.
South Africa looked the more likely to score towards the end of the first half, with the defenders building play from within their own half, the resulting pressure eventually led to the visitor's first goal.
Lance Louw converted a chance from close range after a frantic tussle in the Irish area, with SA attacker Ian Haley making the initial dart into the area, and Louw - playing in his 49th Test - slotting home.
SA kept up the pressure with both attackers, Lloyd Norris-Jones and Thornton McDade coming close.
Ireland came out after the break looking to re-capture their two goal lead and the pressure told as Cockram scored his second of the game after a clinical move saw Eugene Magee finding Cockram with nothing but the goal ahead of him.
Ireland goalkeeper David Harte put in an excellent effort as he saved South Africa's third penalty corner of the game.
Harte was called into action again two minutes later as SA searched for their second, saving an effort from Lloyd Madsen from SA's fourth penalty corner.
Ireland never looked like giving up their lead as they advanced on the slippery turf, scoring their fourth goal 15 minutes into the second period.
Cockram was called into action once more as he layer off an excellent pass to Irish forward David Carson who found Jason Lynch, with the Lynch coolly slotting home for the hosts.
SA had a much better end to their second half and never gave up searching for their second goal.
Justin Reid-Ross rounded off a quick counter attack, lobbing the ball over Harte from the left flank.
Reid-Ross' goal gave the SA side a boost and they kept up their momentum into the final minutes of the game.
As the clock ticked down, SA were awarded their sixth penalty corner, but once again goalkeeper Harte saved a fantastic effort from Madsen to give the Irish a confident 4-2 victory.
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