The Maritzburg College first hockey team shaded Durban High School (DHS) firsts 2-1 in an exciting contest played out in front of an appreciative crowd at Papes Astro on Saturday morning (23 April 2022).
The final scoreline could have just as easily been 5-4 either way or 5-5 such were the quantity and quality of openings carved out by the protagonists – and the at times exceptional saves made by the respective goalkeepers.
Feature photo caption: DHS director of hockey and first team coach Michael Baker is the leading light in the hockey resurgence at Durban High School.
The opening 10 or so minutes saw DHS (School) establish the lion’s share of possession and territory, transferring the ball smoothly left and right, probing for the requisite space to free up the receiver or create an extra man. The Red Black and White defence was composed and patient in absorbing this pressure, leaving School with little that was tangible on the electronic scoreboard.
in the 13th minute Maritzburg College (MC, College, Red Army) suddenly accelerated and it looked to me that it was C Fulton who found space in the attacking third, his pass left just evading the outstretched stick of R Graham in the six-yard box.
A minute later College again poured through all-to freely in a manner that DHS would not have been altogether pleased, and it was the prolific striker Cameron van der Vliet, lurking expectantly inside the six-yard box, who deftly slid the ball past the keeper’s left for the opening goal (MC 1 DHS 0).
DHS came back strongly and captain O Ndondo made a telling inroad through the left channel that placed the School skipper inside the strike zone, and it took a no-nonsense tackle from strongly-built Red Army defender A Carter to repel the threat.
So absorbed I was in the game, it felt as if the first 25 minutes of this match went by in a flash, a sure sign that the hockey contest on show was a compelling spectacle for the sizeable crowd.
In a development that held much promise in the 32nd minute, College centre back and captain Matthew Ponter unfurled a big aerial ball from deep that found L Seshemane but School’s left-side defender was up to speed in containing the danger.
Given the quality and threat posed by College, who continued pressing for that elusive 2-goal advantage, the boys in Oxford Blue and Old Gold were under extreme pressure at times. The Red Army’s left-side striker skilfully stole along the baseline to earn a penalty corner. A neat variation left ensued from the set-piece, A Styan’s shot well-saved by DHS keeper K Henry.
Literally seconds from the hooter, DHS conjured up a great goalshot chance inside the six-yard box, only for the College defence to deal with the danger in collective fashion, successfully scrambling the ball away.
Into the second half and School’s elegant centre back slideruled a defence-splitting left-right diagonal to B Gqweta whose interchange with S Zondi brought the latter oh-so close to equalising matters on the scoresheet.
Seven minutes into the second half, DHS’s incessant pressure finally brought reward, experienced umpire Ian Griffiths having no hesitation in award School a penalty corner at the Princess Margaret Drive End, and DHS captain O Ndondo made no mistake with a solid drag-flick (1-1).
As umpire Griffith told KZN10.com afterwards: “In the second half the tempo and quality picked up another notch.”
Summing up a satisfactory outing from an official’s perspective, Griffiths said, “This was an attractive and relatively easy game to manage.”
Seven minutes left in the third chukka and College came close to edging in front on the scoreboard once again as play continued to open up across all corners of the playing surface.
As the clock ticked down, both sides carved out a couple of excellent chances. The Red Army’s I Mosupye forced a penalty corner, from which a double slip-left emerged, only for DHS shot-stopper K Henry to pull off a remarkable reflex save.
School finished the third chukka in convincing fashion, N Ndonga forcing a pair of outstanding saves from the in-form College keeper Roan Marais, the second of which demanded a stunning diving effort low to his right.
With eight minutes left in the match, the Red Army’s G Winlock, I Mosupye and (it looked like) L Seshemane combined beautifully to unpick the DHS defence and Cameron van der Vliet duly delivered his second, and matchwinning, goal (2-1).
College forced another penalty corner soon after; DHS survived and raced away to win a penalty corner at the Ron Jury Sports Centre End. With a small matter of bare minutes and seconds left, it was crunch time, but once again the Red Army defenders were up for the challenge, to leave the final score reading Maritzburg College 2 DHS 1.
DHS captain O Zondo summed it up for his team-mates in saying to KZN10.com: “We are pretty happy with the way we played, but we should have converted our many chances better.”
Red Army head coach Kyle Emerson: “It was an exciting game with end-to-end action between two tactically good teams that played structured hockey.”
As I understand it, this DHS first hockey team principally consists of grade 11 boys who have come through four school years under the overarching guidance of director of hockey Michael Baker.
With Michael Baker at the helm, DHS hockey is undoubtedly on the right track, and we can look forward to the rest of this season and the 2023 year with much enthusiasm.
The politeness and well-groomed attire of the DHS boys who passed my way was also most noticeable and a pleasure to see.
Well done, School!