The Wineland Wings continued their flight to glory, while the Dragons and Gazelles served up an all-time CTM Premier Hockey League classic. The Namaqualand Daisies earned a shock victory while the Maropeng Cavemen blew a bonus point opportunity. The Blyde River Bunters also saw their tournament hopes all but disappear after three consecutive defeats.

The final day of the opening weekend began with the untelevised game between the SA U21 side playing under the guise of the Golden Gate Gladiators taking on the Garden Route Gazelles. Unfortunately for the youngsters it was another defeat that left them on the verge of elimination from the 2019 CTM Premier Hockey League.

It was an incredible whirlwind start to the game after frost had caused a delay to the proceedings. The action didn’t take as long as the pitch to warm up and within five minutes we had four goals. The Gazelles first struck through Hans Neethling before Sihle Ngubane doubled the lead with a fine deflection from a Jonty Robinson pass. Before we had time to blink it was 2-1, Sam Mvimbi who recently earned his first cap for South Africa, pulled one back for the Gladiators.

Lance Louw got his first for the Gazelles in the fifth minute from a variation penalty corner to make it 3-1 and a superb flick from Connor Beauchamp made it 4-1 by the end of the first quarter. The remaining three quarters saw the Gazelles solidify the bonus point with goals in each period through Berne Burger, Marvin Simons and Connor Beauchamp with the final goal. 7-1 the final score.

The Mapungubwe Mambas sealed top spot in the weekend with their own bonus point victory over the Addo Elephants despite trailing to an early Chad Futcher deflection. The Mambas then produced a near perfect performance from there on out and pulled level through Wade Dollman finishing off after a wonderful Tevin Kok delivery. It got better before half time as Matt Brown pulled off a trademark finish into the top right corner.

Mustapha Cassiem showed his opportunistic ability to make it 3-1 with a good tomahawk finish. The best was yet to come as the sensational trio of Kok, Dollman and Cassiem combined for arguably the best team goal of the tournament. A quick-thinking Mambas move fell to Cassiem who presented with the opportunity squared it for a diving Dollman to put it into the empty net. It was the men’s 300th Premier Hockey League goal. They added another milestone right at the end when Kok deflected home the 50th goal of the current year’s competition to send the Mambas to the top.

Over the past couple of days, the opening quarter had been a tentative one as the teams tried to get into the swing of the action. Today that was not the case and the Orange River Rafters, and the St. Lucia Lakers came out swinging. Sulette Damons gave the Rafters an early lead after being given acres of space after a penalty corner, before a determined run by Erin Hunter led to Refilwe Ralikontsane levelling from a Lilian du Plessis shot. Zimkitha Weston then made it 2-1 to the 2017 Champions bundling home a variation PC. The Rafters then had a golden opportunity to make it 3-1 but Simone Gouws wasted the one-on-one opportunity.

The Lakers showed their class in the third quarter as they turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Quanita Bobbs showed incredible reactionary skills to deflect a rebound back over Greyvenstein and Lilian du Plessis made it 3-2 with a spectacular solo goal and finish from the most acute of angles.

Sulette Damons however had other ideas and ensured the game would go to a shootout to decide the destination of the three points with a replica of the game’s opening goal. After the high of pulling level the Rafters will be disappointed that they were unable to convert any of their shootout efforts and ultimately had to only accept 1 point on the log.

The Namaqualand Daisies next took on the Wineland Wings with both teams on a high from their victories on the previous day. The Wings had an early opportunity after a sensational run by Jess Lardant, but a superb goal line clearance denied a tap in for the table toppers.

The Daisies then produced their best chance of the half with Bianca Woods denied by Magazwa. Sylvia van Jaarsveldt broke the deadlock with a sensational strike. It was van Jaarsveldts 10th PHL goal in history. The Wings looked more and more like they were going to extend their lead, but Stephanie Botha went off her feet and took Segoale out leading to a penalty stroke. Sare Loubscher just about finished it although Magazwa got the glove to it. The game would go to a shootout. The Wings, having shaken their curse scored all four of their shootouts with Jess Lardant finishing the last one to seal a full house of points from the opening four days.

The Maropeng Cavemen and Drakensberg Dragons are the only two teams to have lifted the PHL trophy and they met in the opening weekends final game. The Dragons were on an 8-game winning streak extending back to the opening game of the 2018 competition and were the strong favourites.

In a dominating opening half the Dragons will be disappointed with only leading 1-0 through Chad Caincross with a penalty corner. Lots of chances were wasted to the frustration of Sihle Ntuli. The Cavemen managed to restore parity through Dayaan Cassiem, who along with Brynn Cleak was growing in influence in the game for the Cavemen. But the supremacy of the Dragons was re-established when Ignatius Malgraff, the all-time top goalscorer in PHL, scored his first for the Dragons after a Courtney Halle slip was brutally punished.

But despite the statistics going against them, the chances stacked against them and the weight of pressure against them, the Cavemen emerged victorious. The duo of Cleak and Cassiem were causing serious issues and a bad stick tackle by Swanepoel led to a Cavemen stroke which Keegan Hezlett finished giving no chance to Gowan Jones.

With the Dragons trying to pour forward Cleak won a penalty corner for the Cavemen and the Courtney Halle finished with the type of goal that will remind the SA Hockey loving public why he was so highly regarded with the SA U21 side.

The opening weekend has come to and end with nearly 100 goals scored. Teams will be back next Saturday and Sunday as the group stages wind up and the final four are decided. For now, though it will be the Wings and the Mambas who are in celebratory mood.

CTM Premier Hockey League – 21 July Results

08:00 – (M) – Golden Gate Gladiators 1-7 Garden Route Gazelles
10:00 – (M) – Mapungubwe Mambas 5-1 Addo Elephants
12:00 – (W) – Orange River Rafters (0) 3-3 (2) St. Lucia Lakers
14:00 – (W) – Namaqualand Daisies (2) 1-1 (4) Wineland Wings
16:00 – (M) – Drakensberg Dragons 2-3 Maropeng Cavemen

 

Photos by- Marcel Sigg

Picture 1 – Thati Segoale (Daisies) takes on Sisipho Magazwa (Wings) during the shootout at the CTM Premier Hockey League at Randburg Astro.

Picture 2 – From left Mark Chong (Cavemen), Bili Ntuli (Dragons) and Dayaan Cassiem (Cavemen) fight for the ball during their CTM Premier Hockey League encounter at Randburg Astro.

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