Top-class fare as teams give it stick

Beaulieu and Parkside emerge victorious after intense showdowns

A ferociously competed annual KC March Easter Hockey Festival came to a cracking conclusion on Sunday when the finals were battled out at Buco Park Astro in Bunkers Hill.
Four finals saw the champions of the men’s and women’s gold divisions and men’s and women’s silver divisions crowned after three days of thrilling hockey action was competed at Buffalo Flats Astro, Cambridge Astro and Buco Park.
In the end, top Johannesburg hockey academy Beaulieu were unable to completely defend the four titles they won in 2018, when they claimed a clean sweep in the competition, but did manage to retain their men’s gold league title after a 3-2 victory over the Nelson Mandela University Madibaz.
It was a pulsating match that was played over four 15-minute chukkas, with both teams’ defences coming to the fore after a fast start.
It was a disastrous start for the Madibaz, as from the stick-off Beaulieu attacked at pace, and Reza Rozenburg slotted in the opener after just 13 seconds.
If any fans thought that would open the floodgates they were sorely mistaken as the Madibaz then equalised on 13 minutes after a quick turnover in midfield led to a fantastic backstick finish into the bottom corner from Chad Cairncross that saw the sides end the first chukka level.
The second chukka was almost scoreless, but three minutes from half time Tahier Isaacs tapped in at the far post to give Beaulieu the lead again.
A scoreless third chukka was then followed by much excitement at the start of the fourth as Pambill Gada slotted in a penalty corner in the 48th minute to bring the Madibaz level, only for SA hockey legend Julian Hykes to convert a penalty corner for Beaulieu a minute later, which proved to be the winner.
It was a well deserved final as both teams went through the pool stages unbeaten before the Madibaz edged Gelvan 2-1 and Beaulieu thumped Lakeside Cavaliers 6-2 in the semis.
The women’s gold final was not nearly as exciting, but a vocal crowd were given plenty to cheer as top local team Parkside powered to a thumping 6-0 victory over Beaulieu.
The team’s star player Bianca Wood was in scintillating form as she scored four goals, including the opening two in the 13th and 18th minutes, while Sinamntu Mkiva added a third in the 21st as they took a 3-0 lead into the halftime break.
In the second half Beaulieu could just not find an answer for the rampant Parkside as Wood sealed her hattrick in the 41st minute, Robin September scored the fifth, and then Wood deservedly ended the contest with her fourth on the fulltime siren to secure a memorable win.
The silver division saw a number of upsets during the knockouts.
In the men’s silver division the dominant Beaulieu side, which was the only team to head into the semis having won all their games, were upset 3-0 by William Pescod, while United Masters triumphed 3-0 over In Touch in what was expected to be a tighter match.
United Masters were able to replicate their earlier 1-0 win over William Pescod in the group stages in the final, to lift the title and finish as the only unbeaten team in the division.
The women’s silver division saw St Peters power back from an average pool stage to seal an unexpected title.
Having finished fourth in the pool and only won one game while losing three, St Peters weren’t expected to do much in the knockouts, but they instead upset form side and table-toppers In Touch 3-2 in the semis, before drawing 1-1 with Sorellas in the final and claiming a 3-1 win in the resulting penalty shootout.
In all it was a brilliant weekend, with fans turning out in their numbers to support the top quality hockey action.
“Congratulations to the various medal and trophy winners, and all teams and individuals that took part,” said Calvin Brown, United’s head of the local organising committee.
“Our thanks must go to Saha (South Africa Hockey Association), BHA (Border Hockey Association) and all of our sponsors, media partners, clubs and spectators for partnering with us to host the festival.
“Without your generosity in time, effort and finance nothing would have been possible.
“A special thanks to the LOC for your sacrifice and dedication, Simone and your media team for showcasing the event so diligently and professionally. We hope you all had fun and wish all participants and spectators a safe trip home. See you at Gelvan [in Port Elizabeth for the next Easter tournament] in 2020.”..

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