On a damp morning Kearsney College hosted Maritzburg College at the Masons Astro. Both teams have played quality hockey in patches this season so it was all set up for a great clash.
Kearsney immediately went onto the attack and spent most of the 1st and 2nd chukkas camped in the Maritzburg College half. It was down to two things, primarily, that stopped Maritzburg from gaining any rhythm: (i) Maritzburg conceding turnovers and (ii) some aggressive, tough-as-nails play from Ronan Farquarson and Jacques Minnaar of Kearsney.
Martizburg spent most of the 1st half on the back foot and Kearsney, relishing the unusual tentativeness of the Maritzburg lads, applied enormous pressure. The first opportunity came when an aggressive run by David Hudson opened up space for Campbell Duckworth to shoot – just wide. The signs were there that Kearsney would, sooner or later, make the breakthrough.
With all the sustained pressure it seemed just a matter of time till Kearsney would earn its first penalty corner. The PC set-up didn’t flow fluidly but enough room was created for James Maguire to fire past the right post.
It was from another College turnover that the first goal of the match was scored… a neat interchange between Duckworth and Farquarson opened up a passing lane to Maguire who, with just enough space, punched the ball into the bottom-left corner from top of the D.
A fitting reward for Kearsney, who had bossed proceedings up to this point.
Maritzburg were reduced to trying to catch Kearsney on the counter-attack but livewire Minnaar was an absolute pest, as his relentless workrate stifled much of Maritzburg’s attacking play.
His over-zealousness did earn him a green in the last moments of the half but the nuggety midfielder had certainly played his part in helping Kearsney dominate the 1st half.
The 2nd half was a complete reversal of the first and now it was College’s turn to spend large portions of the 3rd and 4th chukkas pressuring the Kearsney goal.
There was a sense of urgency about the College play which was surprisingly absent in the 1st half. Bruyns was tireless in running into space as he dragged the Kearsney defenders to and fro across the field. The passing was crisp and the movement decisive as Mthalane and Ngcobo probed down the left-hand side.
As Minnaar and Farquarson had done for Kearsney in the 1st half, it was now Maritzburg’s Prinsloo who entered centre stage in the midfield battles. It was a direct result of his energy and drive that Martizburg were awarded a penalty corner.
Martizburg’s timing was also off and In the ensuing scramble Kearsney were adjudged to have deliberately hit down on a Maritzburg stick and a penalty flick was awarded. Up stepped captain Pio for Maritzburg and he coolly tucked the flick away in the top-right corner.
Play continued with the scores locked at 1-1 until deep into the 4th chukka… and there perhaps came the defining point in the fixture. Prinsloo, who had been so influential in controlling the midfield for Martizburg, received a green card and was sent off the field. With the space now afforded to him, it was that man Farquarson (featured image. Photo Credit – Kearsney College) who took matters into his own hands – and it was after one of his telling drives and resultant pass to Maguire that Maritzburg conceded a short corner with a slender, but sufficiently meaty, 90 seconds left on the clock.
The penalty corner wasn’t the smoothest you will ever see, but there was just enough variation to give Chase Kelly time and space to smash the ball into the bottom-right corner, much to the delight of the Kearsney players and fans. It was now 2-1 to Kearsney with but a handful of seconds left.
The resultant Maritzburg possession didn’t amount to much, and the final whistle duly sounded. The jubilation of the Kearsney players at the whistle reflected just how much they wanted this – and what it means to topple the Red Army’s hard-earned reputation gained over the decades as one of the most potent forces in South African schools hockey.
And full credit must go the way of the Kearsney lads for the manner and forethought with which they went about their task.