The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team and Ireland played to an exciting 2-2 draw in the opening Four Nations match in Parana, Argentina late Tuesday night (SA time).
Ireland led 1-0 at half-time through Aine Connery’s second-minute field goal before SA replied eight minutes after the changeover via a Kate Woods penalty corner.
Captain Alexa Speers restored Ireland’s lead with a 46th minute corner before Woods’s Western Province team-mate Tarryn Bright netted the equaliser from a set-piece 16 minutes from time.
While both sides did not welcome the 2-2 draw, it was an improvement on Ireland’s part from the 2-0 defeat to SA in the initial Four Nations event in Buenos Aires last week.
The world number 12 SA squad got off to the worst possible start against world number 14 Ireland when Amy Colvin made inroads along the left-hand baseline before laying off for Connery to score (1-0).
In the ninth, a Bernie Coston right-to-left diagonal pass inside Ireland’s 23-metre area found Celia Evans and brought a fine stick save low to the right from Emma Gray. Next up, neat inter-passing between Jade Mayne and Liesel Dorothy found SA striker Sulette Damons, who came close to equalising.
Damons and Chloe Watkins traded shots before half-time but SA were dealt a blow when 2010 SA Player of the Year Lesle-Ann George was forced to leave the field for the rest of a gripping match.
SA’s first penalty corner (PC) came and went before goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa blocked a Nikki Daly effort, and then Speers came close. But excellent build-up earned SA’s second PC and Woods took a step to the right before nailing the equaliser into the backboard (1-1).
A third SA corner came to naught before the tide turned in helter-skelter fashion once again. Daly won Ireland’s second PC and Speers netted from a goalmouth scramble (2-1). Nicola Evans nearly made it more for Ireland, but it was all square again when corner injector Bright followed up off the keeper’s pads after SA’s fourth PC (2-2).
With a quarter-hour left, there was everything to play for, and skilful work by Kathleen Taylor very nearly found the winner from Mayne. There a lot at stake for both sides in this tournament, so Thursday’s action should be thrill-a-minute stuff.
In Tuesday’s other match, a pulsating encounter, world champions Argentina beat world number 13 India 3-1.
Next up, SA meet world champions Argentina at 1 am Friday (SA time). SA will then face India at 10.30 pm on Saturday (SA time) before Sunday’s finals.
Remaining fixtures (all SA time):
Thursday:India vs Ireland (10.30 pm) SA vs Argentina (1am Friday)
Saturday:India vs SA (10.30 pm) Argentina vs Ireland (1 am Sunday)
Sunday:Bronze Medal Match (10.30 pm) Gold Medal Match (1am Monday)
The Investec SA Team:Lesle-Ann George Mariette Rix Kate Woods Ilse Davids Tarryn Bright Shelley Russell Jade Mayne Kathleen Taylor Marsha Marescia Lisa Deetlefs Bernie Coston Sanani Mangisa Nicolene Terblanche Dirkie Chamberlain Sulette Damons Celia Evans Lenise Marais Liesel Dorothy