Experienced South Africa win tight Spar Indoor Series
Ireland Indoor Women’s team lost their six-game Spar Indoor Series 2-0 in Cape Town this week. It was a heartening trip for Ross Willis’ charges. He saw vast improvement in his side since these two teams met in Ireland last February – when South Africa won a five-game series 4-1.
The first two games of the trip finished one goal apiece, with Ireland leading the first through a Chloe Brown penalty corner late on, only to see South Africa level from their own corner with a minute left on the clock.
The second match was the first of four that took place in the Wynberg Military Base in front of a huge crowd of over 1,500 spectators, with all the bells and whistles that go along with top-level indoor hockey. Mikayla Power was the goalscorer for Ireland, equalising with a classy upright backhand into the bottom corner in a cagey match.
Game three was a high-scoring tie, South Africa taking the lead three times and Ireland equalising on every occasion. But this is a game Ireland will look back on with regret as they will feel they had the chances to win it and go one up in the series. At three goals to two down, Ireland were awarded a penalty stroke which they missed. Soon after, they won another stroke, this time Orla Fox converted to level the game. The girls in green had further chances to win the match, but the hosts managed to hold out for the draw.
South Africa came back strong in game four, showing all of their experience in a 5-2 win. Ireland managed to stay within touching distance of the home side until the last six minutes when, with Ireland pushing to draw level, the hosts scored two in quick succession to make it a three-goal victory.
The fifth game of the series was another 3-3 thriller. South Africa, once again, took the lead but Ireland equalised soon after through a Sarah Patton field goal – a well taken first-time finish after a pass from her sister, Orla. The girls in green then took the lead through an Orla Fox penalty corner, before South Africa equalised a minute later, only for Ireland to take the lead again a minute after that – Amy Benson tapping in at the back post. The last goal of the game belonged to the South Africans. They equalised in the 24th minute and neither side could break the deadlock for the last 15 minutes of the match.
The Spar Indoor Series went into its final match with South Africa just one win in the lead. The sixth match was arguably Ireland’s best performance. The girls in green went ahead in the fourth minute through an Orla Patton field goal when, after good work down the right, Chloe Brown crossed and Patton finished first-time high and into the net.
The visitors had their chances to extend their lead with a number of penalty corners, but they could not find the target. And then South Africa showed all of their experience when they equalised with five minutes on the clock before sealing the win with a field goal three minutes from the finish. The win gave South Africa the series victory, but it was a huge improvement on Ireland’s last visit there three years ago, when they lost 6-0.