In Thursday evening’s showcase game, Southern Gauteng went 1-0 ahead against North West, before unseasonal Highveld lightning and showers brought the match to a premature end in the second half.
Though the result of the match was academic, as Southern Gauteng were guaranteed a place in the final against log leaders Western Province, the match ended on that score, with Southern Gauteng ending day four with 9 points.
Midlands, Southerns only potential rivals on the log, have a negative goal difference of 15 on comparison.
A-Section play started at 14:30 on Thursday with Western Province squeaking through 3-2 against Northerns, after the teams ending the first-half level care of goals by WP’s Henna du Buisson, and Louisa Moore for Northerns.
National keeper Mariette Rix will regret having her tournament’s clean sheet disturbed, but the team now tops the A-Section log with an invincible 12 points from four wins in four.
Candice Forword added to her tournament tally by scoring against Western Province in the matches’ dying moments, but Province’s three goals, by Henna du Buisson (2) and Taryn Hosking, were sufficient to take the day’s honours.
For Northerns, the day’s proceedings signaled the end of the team’s hopes for a finals berth, following three losses in four matches after a positive 4-0 win against Midlands in their first game.
In the Section’s second match, a tough goalless halfway mark was nudged away from KZN Raiders in Midland’s favour when Marie Laure Rigg scored a penalty corner in 43rd minute.
After the match, a visibly delighted Midlands captain Sam Usher expressed the team’s relief at remaining in contention for a bronze medal.
“It’s been a bit of a heroes’ week. We came in with a minimal team, and pulled together to achieve some great results after a shaky beginning,” said Usher.
“Today’s match was very up-down, very stressful, but we’re glad to have come through with a win,” Usher continued.
Coach Simon Johnson echoed Usher’s happy spirits, but indicated that the first two losses were hard to swallow, and that hard work and strategic planning were required for their success.
“We had some strategies,” Johnson said afterwards, “Some worked, some didn’t…”
“They came out very hard, and we made a couple of key changes at half time to stop them, said Johnson. “After that, things looked much better. We changed position play, tried to take our 16-yards’ much quicker, in all, it worked very well.”
Raiders’ Captain Jen Wilson was the picture of disappointment after the game, and the team will rue the 2-all draw against North West on Tuesday, without considering the bruising loss to provincial rivals Midlands today.
Their Friday match against Western Province will be an effort to regain respectability, but odds favour the log leaders for another victory on route to Saturday’s final.
Western Province 3-2 Northerns
Natal Midlands 1-0 KwaZulu Natal
Southern Gauteng 1-0 North West
Border 1-1 Peninsula
Witwatersrand 8-0 Free State
Eastern Province 4-1 KZN Mynahs
Friday, 25th August 2006
08h30: Witwatersrand vs. KZN Mynahs
10h20: Eastern Province vs. Border
12h10: Free State vs. Peninsula
14h30: North West vs. Northerns
16h20: Western Province vs. KwaZulu Natal
18h10: Southern Gauteng vs. Natal Midlands