There have been a number of exciting KZN10 schools’ first team hockey matches this season, but the Clifton College 4-3 at Hilton stakes a big claim to be the pick of the bunch.
RenateMonty feature photo: Clifton first team and title-winning KZN Coastal mentor Keegan Pearce is a tactician of note.
Here is Clifton head coach Keegan Pearce’s thoughts on the match, a match which I personally would never have predicted could go the Durban team’s way.
“Coming into Saturday’s fixture with Hilton, Jono, it certainly was daunting playing away against such a well-structured and tactically astute Hilton College team.
“The odds were certainly against us and we needed a good start to give ourselves an opportunity to win. The first 20 minutes seemed like a whirlwind. We scored 3 goals inside the first 15 minutes.
“We targeted the counter-attacks, and a key part of our game was to move the ball on early.
“We capitalised on what, at times, was loose marking and we connected passes superbly to get behind the defensive line almost every attacking play. This allowed us to gain entry into the attacking 23-metre area and also make circle entries, and 3 goals was the result.”
A combination of turnovers and counter-attacks from deep plus space in the Hilton midfield led to field goals by Clifton’s Justin Wood, Spencer Klue and Luke Wilson. But could underdogs Clifton maintain such incredible momentum?
Yes indeed. Here’s Keegan:
“We scored a 4th goal in the 2nd chukka to go 4-0 up and that really cemented our lead in the second half.”
With a Hilton player on the receiving end of an umpire’s green card at a point during the second chukka, Clifton pocketed their second deflection goal, Daryl Lotter emulating the same scoring manner of Justin Wood’s opening goal in this high-octane clash.
Remarkably, the rampant Clifton combination nearly went 5-0 up just 5 minutes from halftime after sterling work by John Munford, but the Daryl Lotter effort shaved the wrong side of the left post.
Back to Clifton head coach Keegan Pearce:
“Then we were complacent and conceded a penalty corner in the last 10 seconds of the 2nd chukka.”
The penalty corner stemmed from an inspired drive and Hilton College’s skilful playmaker and drag-flick king Cameron Pearce made no error in flashing the ball into the left side of the goals.
Despite Clifton being a remarkable 4-1 up going into the second half, this match was by no means over, as the classy Hilton College team had a good 30 minutes in which to overhaul the Durban side’s impressive, but not unbeatable, 3-goal margin.
Here’s Clifton coach Keegan Pearce:
“With nothing to lose, Hilton put everything they had into the last 30 minutes and pressed us so well that the cracks started to show!
“We defended deep for long periods, and naturally but unfortunately we adopted a defend-at-all-costs mindset. It meant our build-up was rushed and too direct, and Hilton capitalised on that to win a few penalty corners and scored a great goal from a strong flick.”
As KZN10.com reporter at pitch-side, ZekeO, commented in his match report, “Up stepped that man (Cameron) Pearce whose drag flick exploded the back of the Clifton net… 4-2 is how the (third) chukka ended.”
Back to Clifton mentor Keegan Pearce:
“We played out to a 4-2 lead until the last few minutes, when again some great pressing and brilliant intercepting from Hilton saw them score to make it 4-3.”
As KZN10.com reporter Zeke put it: “In the 59th minute (Stephan) Liebenberg guided a bullet cross into the back of the net, making the score 4-3. With a minute to go the tension was palpable as the Clifton boys tried to hold onto the ball.”
Clifton coach Keegan Pearce praised his boys for hanging on so well in that emotion-charged final minute to seal a memorable 4-3 victory.
Head coach Devon van der Merwe’s Hilton College lads will be looking to end off their successful season on a high note when they visit Aitken’s Astro in Balgowan this Saturday morning and a match-up with captain Ben Rebeck’s buoyant Michaelhouse side, who on Pape’s Astro last Saturday were the first Men of House in 19 years to beat Maritzburg College in their own backyard.
Hilton won this year’s first encounter with Michaelhouse in what was an at-times acrimonious affair, so let’s hope that the 15 June KZN10.com Super Saturday Feature Match will be free of undue tension and full of sparkling schoolboy hockey.
In 2018 the annual two-match Hilton/Michaelhouse series was shared 1 apiece, the Aitken’s Astro match a personal triumph for Ben Rebeck who nailed all 4 of the Men of House’s goals in the Michaelhouse victory.