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News for 17 March 2017

All the news for Friday 17 March 2017

France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland complete semi-final line-up in Belfast

Action from Wales' 3-0 quarter-final victory over Italy at the Men's Hockey World League Round 2 event in Belfast (Credit: PressEye).

Following a superb day of quarter-final action at the Men’s Hockey World League Round 2 event in Belfast, France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all progressed through to the competition semi-finals.

France (FIH Hero World Ranking: 17) continued their excellent form with a fourth straight win in the first match of the day, cruising to an 11-2 victory over Ukraine (WR: 24). Etienne Tynevez started and finished the match by scoring goals in the first and fourth quarters, while Charles Masson and Blaise Rogeau also scored two goals each in the rout.

France’s opponents in the semi-finals will be Scotland (WR: 27), who upset the FIH Hero World Rankings with a shoot-out win over Austria (WR: 21) after regulation time finished with the scored locked at 5-5. Alan Forsyth and Dominic Uher exchanged hat tricks in a game that was level on five occasions, with Uher’s final goal coming inside the last minute to take the match to the shoot-out. Scotland scored all four of their shoot-out efforts with Forsyth, Jamie Wong, Lee Morton and Gavin Byers all netting while David Forrester – swapping into goal for regular time shot-stopper Tommy Alexander – denied two Austrian efforts for the win.

Wales (WR: 34) booked their ticket to the semi-finals with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Italy. Gareth Furlong scored a penalty corner at the end of the first quarter before netting his second with a penalty stroke early in the second period. Rupert Shipperley’s third quarter field goal proved to be the killer blow as Wales sealed their place in the competition’s final four.

Ireland (WR: 10) set up a semi-final meeting against Wales by winning 5-1 against Poland (WR: 19). The Green Machine scored three goals in the second quarter to effectively kill the contest, with John McKee, Eugene Magee and Shane O’Donoghue all netting in a devastating six-minute spell, with O’Donoghue scoring a second penalty corner shortly after half time to take the score to 4-0. Poland netted a goal of their own nine minutes from time thanks to Patryk Bulka, but McKee finished off a fine Irish team move to complete the scoring two minutes from time.

The semi-finals will take place on Saturday 16 March, with Ireland taking on Wales at 14:30 GMT before Scotland face France in the second semi-final at 16:45. The day will start with the 5-8 play-off matches, with Austria going head to head with Ukraine at 10:00 and Poland playing Italy at 12:15.

Like all the Round 2 events, the competition in Belfast will witness a clash between teams that came through the first phase of the competition against sides that were automatically given a bye through to Round 2 due to their higher placement in the FIH Hero World Rankings. The highest ranked teams will enter the World League at the Semi-Final stage of the Hockey World League which will take place in this summer.

The top two finishers from the men’s Round 2 events in Dhaka, Belfast (11-19 Mar 2017) and Tacarigua, (25 Mar-2 Apr 2017) are certain to qualify for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals, being joined in the World Cup qualifier phase by the two highest ranked of the third placed finishers from those three events.

You can keep track of the tournament in Belfast on the official competition pages by clicking here and on FIH’s social media channels using the #HWL2017 hashtag.

FIH site

Green Machine Secure Place In Semi Final

Ireland’s young side produced their performance of the week in a pressure-filled tie against Poland, winning 5-1 to advance to the semi-final and a step away from a ticket to the World League semi-finals where the World Cup tickets will be decided.

They started superbly, winning a penalty corner in the first 15 seconds while Eugene Magee also had a smash at ball unfortunately blocked by team mate Jonny McKee.

From there, they moved the ball, creating a number of good attacks but the last pass just would not stick. Poland had a corner, too, but it was kept at bay with minimal fuss.

The second quarter, though, was where the game was won. Ireland employed a high-lying sweeper to good effect and it played a key role in the first two goals. Matthew Bell stepped forward to pick up the pieces and shoot across the face of goal in the 19th minute for McKee to guide home.

Moments later, it was 2-0 as Conor Harte this time strode forward and picked out Eugene Magee at the right post to turn home. Another feature was an aggressive press with Neal Glassey and Shane O’Donoghue preying on any loose ball.

The latter nicked in to set up the move that won Ireland’s second corner. O’Donoghue flung in the drag-flick for 3-0 at half-time. He added the fourth soon after half-time, this time from Glassey’s good work and the Green Machine were all but home and hosed.

Poland did rally, their tournament hopes on the line, and pushed on in the final ten minutes. Pawel Bratkowksi clipped the crossbar from a corner before Patryk Bulka nudged in a close-range shot from a scrappy melee.

Ireland, though, capped the win with a glorious fifth goal, breaking forward from half-way with a series of intricate one-touch passes, leading to Sean Murray to chip over the goalkeeper Rafal Banaszak. It was going in but McKee made extra sure.

Coach Craig Fulton said afterwards: “In a must-win game, there will always be tension. These are difficult games; it’s a quarter-final and must-win.

“Whether you play beautifully or its pretty, it doesn’t matter. The result is everything.”

Reflecting on the flow of the game, he added: “We did well in the first quarter but couldn’t put a final pass on it. They are a difficult team to play against and Mateusz Poltaszewski is a good player and controlled things for a while.

“But once we got one, two and three that put them under a lot of pressure. We pressed well. The stepping forward from us was really good. All respect to Poland, we maybe left three or four more goals out there. Where we are getting the ball are really good areas. It is building.”

Ireland next play Wales on Saturday afternoon in the competition’s semi-final at 2.30pm at Stormont. The winner advances to the final and is guaranteed a ticket to the next phase of the World League.

France and Scotland will contest the other semi-final.

Ireland 5 (J McKee 2, S O’Donoghue 2, E Magee)
Poland 1 (P Bulka)

Ireland: D Harte, J Bell, M Bell, R Gormley, M Nelson, E Magee, N Glassey, S O’Donoghue, J McKee, P Gleghorne, C Harte

Subs: B Walker, C Cargo, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, J Wright, J Carr

Poland: R Banaszak, M Raciniewski, M Gumny, D Kotulski, S Sellner, M Hulboj, J Janicki, R Wisniewski, A Krokosz, P Bratkowski, M Poltaszewski

Subs: P Bulka, B Zywiczka, R Gruszczynski, P Pawlak, J Kurowski, K Sudol, M Popiolkowskia

Umpires: V Ilgrande, I Diamond

Quarter-final one:

France moved a step closer to qualification for World League Round 2 as they blew apart Ukraine in the first quarter at Stormont to advance to the semi-finals and within one win of advancing.

It took them nine minutes to get up and running as Etienne Tynevez – their Under-18 captain of 2016 – slipping his marker and shooting home. Tom Genestet’s reverse-stick effort made it 2-0 and Charles Masson shot high into the net for a 3-0 lead at quarter-time.

Blaise Rogeau and Simon Martin-Brisac extended the lead out to five by the big break. Pieter van Straaten and Masson’s second put them seven up. From there, there was respite for Ukraine who got one back from Andrii Koshelenko’s second penalty stroke of the tournament.

Jean-Laurent Kieffer and Viktor Lockwood made it 9-1; Artur Mazurkevych scored a Ukraine corner but Rogeau and Tynevez nabbed their second each to extend the lead out to 11-2. France advance to Saturday's semi-finals where a win will see them guaranteed a ticket to the World League semi-final while Ukraine go into the fifth to eighth place playoffs.

France 11 (E Tynevez 2, B Rogeau 2, C Masson 2, P van Straaten, J-L Kieffer, T Genestet, V Lockwood, G Deront)
Ukraine 2 (A Koshelenko, A Mazurkevych)

Credit: PressEye

Quarter-final two:

Gareth Furlong’s pair of set piece goals in the first half set Wales on course for a composed victory over Italy and get them in the mix for the tickets to the World League Round 3.

After a couple of early corners, Furlong dragged his side into the lead in the 15th minute with a low blast for 1-0. He added a stroke midway through the second quarter for 2-0 and, for the most part, were very much in control.

And the third goal killed off any chance the Italians had. James Kyriakides made a brilliant run, drifting away from the cover defence from left to right before shooting back into the centre. Rupert Shipperley was on hand to guide it in from close range.

Italy attempted to push forward in the closing quarter but could not create any major chances and Wales saw out the tie with comfort.

Wales 3 (G Furlong 2, R Shipperley)
Italy 0

Credit: PressEye

Quarter-final three:

Scotland became the third side to reach the semi-finals of World League Round 2 as they produced a flawless shoot-out to beat Austria after a titanic tussle in normal time ended 5-5.

Alan Forsyth and Dominic Uher exchanged hat tricks in a game that was level on five occasions as both sides went hell for leather for the win. Alexander Bele set the tone in just the second minute to give Austria the lead only for Forsyth to level the tie in the ninth minute.

An Uher drag-flick made it 2-1 at quarter-time but a Forsyth stroke had the game locked up at 2-2 at the big break. Another Uher drag restored the Austrian lead with Ed Greaves, this time, the man to tie the match up once more.

Benjamin Stanzl gave Austria the lead for the fourth time with a brilliant solo goal when he got in around the back and swept around Tommy Alexander. He and Forsyth were the game’s dominant forces with both taking on more and more of the ball.

Forsyth added a brilliant run and backhand finish for 4-4. Scotland then took the lead with 100 seconds to go when Lee Morton guided in Willie Marshall’s crash ball into the circle. But Stanzl won two more corners and, from the second of them, Uher found the net with 40 seconds left to send the game to shoot-out.

Scotland netted all four of theirs with Forsyth, Jamie Wong, Lee Morton and Gavin Byers all netting while David Forrester – swapping into goal for Alexander – denied to two Austrian efforts for the win.

Austria 5 (D Uher 3, A Bele, B Stanzl)
Scotland 5 (A Forsyth 3, L Morton, E Greaves), Scotland win 4-2 on shoot-out

Credit: PressEye

Irish Hockey Association media release

Black Sticks open with win over Pakistan

Photo: www.photosport.nz

The Vantage Black Sticks Men have defeated Pakistan 3-2 in the opening test at the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington.

In head coach Darren Smith’s first outing as head coach, the Kiwis controlled much of the possession throughout the match despite plenty of pressure from Pakistan.

Defender Cory Bennett delivered a stinging penalty corner flick and set up Sam Lane from another, while hometown hero Stephen Jenness added a terrific field goal for his side.

The clash was extra exciting for Cam Hayde, Nick Elder and Jonty Keaney who all made their Black Sticks debut.

Smith said it was great to come away with a result in his first game at the helm.

“We put together a couple of well executed corners and I thought the team had some good moments throughout the game with encouraging signs,” he said.

“I was happy with the work rate and the desire from all players was high. Each of the defenders did a good job and can be proud of their performance.

“We stuck to our task and defended well under pressure at the end so we will now look to put out an even better effort tomorrow.”

Lane opened the scoring midway through the second quarter after a well-executed penalty corner variation saw Bennett leave the ball for Lane to hammer into goal.

Pakistan equalised just minutes later when a defensive error allowed Muhammad Dilber to slip a ball past Devon Manchester in goal.

Jenness brought the home crowd to their feet in the 44th minute after receiving a great ball in the circle and dragging right to left around the keeper and finishing on his reverse stick.

Bennett then put the Black Sticks out by two goals 10 minutes from fulltime with a crashing penalty corner flick low and to the right.

Pakistan scored again in the 52nd minute through a Muhammad Aleem Bilal flick but the New Zealand defence held firm to secure the result.

The Vantage Black Sticks are back in action against Pakistan at 4:30pm tomorrow, with live coverage available through www.hockeynz.co.nz/video

VANTAGE BLACK STICKS 3: (Sam Lane, Stephen Jenness, Cory Bennett)
PAKISTAN 2: (Muhammad Dilber, Muhammad Aleem Bilal)
Halftime: 1-1

Hockey New Zealand Media release

New Zealand Black Sticks overcome cobwebs for victory against Pakistan in Wellington

Black Stick Sam Lane celebrates his goal with Stephen Jenness during the international hockey match between New Zealand and Pakistan. PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand had to fight through some early cobwebs to get their five-match series against Pakistan off to a winning start.

As expected, New Zealand's set piece play was ruthlessly efficient against the visiting Pakistanis as Sam Lane and Cory Bennett scored from penalty corners, but they'll want to see more creativity in the final third in upcoming fixtures.

It was a definite case of knocking the rust free from the Black Sticks chassis early on, as their attacking movements came unstuck short of the circle.

Dominic Newman is tackled. PHOTOSPORT

But once things settled down New Zealand found their rhythm, enough so that they could grind out a result at Wellington's National Hockey Stadium.

As you'd expect early in the season, both sides were a little scrappy in the opening half as they struggled to string together any meaningful periods of play.

Pakistan looked better with the ball at the end of their sticks, showing off tight ball control and impressive one-on-one skill to beat and befuddle New Zealand defenders.

But structurally, New Zealand were better, probably edging the territorial battle.

As such, it was New Zealand who opened the scoring midway through the second corner with their first penalty corner of the game.

Sam Lane turned his man to get into the circle before being taken out, but with a bit of trickery at the set piece Lane was the man to bulge the back of the net.

New Zealand then flicked the switch, in a bad way. They turned off at the back, allowing Muhammad Dilber to equalise a minute later when nothing appeared to be on.

It was just reward for a game that had been dead even at that point.

Pakistan came out of halftime looking the better, parking up inside New Zealand's half of the field as they peppered the Kiwi circle.

But New Zealand grabbed a lead on the break, against the run of play, as Stephen Jenness was left alone in the Pakistani circle midway through the third. He took his time, touching the ball past one defender before guiding it home with placement, rather than power.

That had been the risk Pakistan were playing with throughout, sending men forward in numbers but often giving a hint that their defence could be broken down on the break.

Just before the third quarter hooter, New Zealand earned another penalty corner and this time they went via route one, as Cory Bennett fired one high into the goal.

Pakistan kept fighting, and took a bite into New Zealand's advantage when Mazhar Abbas stuffed a penalty corner home in the final quarter.

But from then on New Zealand had more control over possession of the ball, and were able to safely close out the match with some smart hockey.


New Zealand 3 (Sam Lane, Stephen Jenness, Cory Bennett) - Pakistan 2 (Muhammad Dilber, Mazhar Abbas). HT: 1-1


Azlan Shah Cup snub upsets PHF

LAHORE: Already facing crunch time, Pakistan hockey has suffered yet another shock when the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) did not invite the country, for the first time, in the traditional Sultan Azlan Shah Cup being held next month.

The 26th edition of the Azlan Shah Cup is scheduled to begin on April 26. Since its inception in 1983, the Azlan Shah Cup has featured Pakistan almost regularly. The green-shirts have won the title thrice (1999, 2000, 2003) while remaining runners-up six times, the last occasion being 2011.

In its reaction to the unusual scenario, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has written a letter to the country’s High Commissioner in Malaysia urging the official to convey PHF concerns over MHC’s stunning move — of not inviting Pakistan for the event — to Malaysia’s sports ministry.

PHF secretary Shahbaz Senior said he had also written a letter to the the Asian Hockey Federation to take up the issue with the MHC.

“The [MHC] decision has disappointed us as participation in the Azlan Shah Cup was a great opportunity for us to prepare ourselves team for the World Cup qualifying round to be held in London in June,” Shahbaz said while underlining that Pakistan over the years had played a significant role in promoting the sport of field hockey in Malaysia.

As an alternative plan, Shahbaz said, the PHF would now try to schedule some matches for the national team against Argentina, Belgium, Spain and Germany.

After the PHF failed to send its team to the Junior World Cup held in India earlier this year -- mainly due to not applying for visa to meet the FIH deadline to confirm participation -- the Azlan Shah Cup is a big blow to the PHF.

Meanwhile, some PHF officials on the condition of anonymity have blamed Narinder Batra, an Indian, who won election of FIH president last year, for the cold shoulder given these days by the world hockey community to Pakistan.


PHF cries foul after being thrown out of Azlan Shah tournament

KARACHI: The Pakistan Hockey Federation has sought the intervention of Asian Hockey Federation after its team has been dumped from the forthcoming Azlan Shah tournament to be held from April 26 in Malaysia.

"We are very disappointed at the way the Azlan Shah Cup organisers have dropped us from the tournament and included England in our place," PHF secretary Shahbaz Ahmad said on Thursday.

Without elaborating on the reasons for the Pakistan team being dropped from the high-profile tournament, he said that Pakistan had played a big role in promotion and development of hockey in Malaysia.

"We have written to the AHF to intervene and do something because it is disappointing to be in this position. We had already made a lot of preparations to send the team to Malaysia. It was important for us since the World Cup qualifiers are also due to take place in June in London," he said.

Pakistan has been regularly taking part in the Azlan Shah tournament since 1983, having won it thrice but in 2014 it withdrew from the competition due to lack of funds.

Last year Pakistan finished fifth in the event.

Shahbaz said that the PHF would now try to arrange test matches for the team in Germany, Belgium, Argentina and Spain to prepare for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

The Times of India

Time is ripe for Indian hockey to show its potential: Oltmans

BENGALURU: Indian men's hockey team has caught international attention in the last few years by virtue of their performances and it's time for the past masters of the game to show the world what they are capable of, said chief coach Roelant Oltmans.

Oltmans' assertion stemmed from Germany and Kalinga Lancers skipper Moritz Fuerste's recent statement after Hockey India League that India can be top three in world hockey soon.

"I see it as a compliment that top sides in the world are seeing what India is doing," said Oltmans about Fuerste's remark.

"Maybe three-four years ago they weren't even looking at India as a serious competitor. India is getting close to the top sides and now it's up to us to show that we can do it," the Dutchman said at the senior men's national camp underway Sports Authority of India (SAI), Southern Centre here.

Having made a good start to the new Olympic cycle with men's Asian Champions Trophy and the prestigious Junior World Cup titles, Oltmans feels the process has been put in place to be the world's best.

India's next assignment is the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April, followed by the World League Semi-Final in June, men's Asia Cup in September and the World League Final in December.

Oltmans' focus now is on building a formidable team for next year's World Cup.

"I think in the previous Olympic cycle from 2014, we have made a lot of progress. No doubt our focus is on 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2018 men's World Cup but we have to get the confidence by doing well in all tournaments," he said.

With 11 new recruits from the Junior World Cup-winning squad in the 33-member core probables list, it is evident that Oltmans is looking at youngsters to be the fulcrum of Indian team.

"Every country goes through a transitional phase. I know that Holland already has 12 players from their junior squad though they finished seventh in the Junior World Cup. It is important to invest in the potential of these younger players to make sure they continue to develop," Oltmans said.

"These guys (junior players) know what is expected of them and the last four months of 2016, I have closely worked with these boys ahead of the Junior World Cup and they are aware of my working style.

"They are elite athletes and they are fully aware that I expect nothing less than 100 per cent on the pitch in every session," added the Dutchman, who will be at the helm till 2020 Olympics.

To achieve better results, Oltmans feels it is important for the players to share responsibilities.

"From what I've seen, there is a top down approach that exists in Indian way of functioning - be it in business, family or work. To do well in a team sport, every player needs to take responsibility and work towards executing his personal best into the team but not by playing as an individual but as a team player.

"I see this changing in our team and I believe this change in attitude will bring us success," he said.

Apart from improving tactically and technically, now there is a lot of emphasis on scientific approach towards training in this new Olympic cycle.

"We will rely a lot on scientific approach of training keeping in mind the new demands of international hockey. It is becoming such a fast sport where the players need to sprint and sprint almost throughout the game maintaining optimal energy levels. So we need to make sure our training and testing program is based on that and how they cope with that pressure," Oltmans said.

"Moving forward, I also feel there is room for improvement in terms of tactical and technical execution. We will also need to improve on converting our penalty corners."

Oltmans agenda for the team will be ably-supported by a highly qualified support staff, which includes analytical coach Hans Streeder, scientific advisor Scott Conway as well as former India stars Arjun Halappa and dragflick expert Jugraj Singh.

The Times of India

Don't see Raghunath coming back: Oltmans

Manuja Veerappa

BENGALURU: There is freshness in the senior men's hockey camp at the SAI, South Centre here, an excitement among the young turks -many of whom are in the senior camp for the first time. The juniors are eager to make a mark and the season campaigners are striving to match up to the challenge from the fresh faces, most of whom were part of the 2016 Junior World Cup winning squad .

Apart from the 33 core probables, chief coach Roelant Oltmans has also added new coaches to the roster --former India skipper Arjun Halappa and former dragflick ace Jugraj Singh. With a new Olympic cycle under way , Oltmans has made it clear that the emphasis will be on youth and the seniors have to accept and embrace the fact that they have to eventually make way for youngsters.

"It's a normal process in every country , especially at the start of a new Olympic cycle. Coaches can't just look at the present alone. We have to look at the future," said the Dutchman.

One prominent player who has been eased out is defender and drag-flick specialist VR Raghunath. The decision may shock some, considering Raghunath had captained India during the Australian tour in November last year. But the writing was on the wall for a while.

Oltmans on Thursday all but shut the door on the Karnataka player's international career. "To be honest, I don't see him coming back," he stated. "It was something we discussed and that will always be between him and me. In his heart of course he will fight and try to come back but at this moment, we have so many good youngsters coming up, especially in the defensive line."

The Times of India

Indian Bank triumphs

K. Keerthivasan

In a performance worthy of praise and recognition, Indian Bank defeated strong favourites Indian Overseas Bank 3-2 in the final of the Indian Bank Trophy State-level invitation men’s hockey tournament at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Thursday.

Trailing by two goals, IOB came back strongly in the second half to equalise.

IB took the lead through Surendar whose shot first was saved by the ‘keeper Shan, and the rebound saw Surendar striking it again, this time it touched the goalline. Even though it appeared like Muthuselvan had cleared it, umpire Anna Kumar awarded the goal.

IOB did try to step up the tempo with Harmanpreet at the centre and Amardeep Ekka at the right, making repeated attempts, but the IB defence stood strong.

Raja’s aerial pass saw the IOB goalkeeper beaten completely with only Surendar and defender Senthil Kumar in front. Surendar got the ball and struck it only to hit the lone defender Senthil’s leg. A penalty stroke was awarded to IB which Gnanavel converted.

Immediately, IOB players surrounded the umpire protesting the awarding of penalty.

A minor scuffle between IOB and the umpire. A few minutes later, play restarted.

IOB literally dominated the second session. Muthuselvan struck off a penalty corner minutes into the second session.

IOB equalised through Harmanpreet off a penalty corner. It was a well-orchestrated move. Harmanpreet’s push for the corner saw Mangal Kispotta pass it back to the former, who pushed it home from the left.

Gnanavel, who scored the winner for IB, has been a guest player for nearly five years. Senior players hope that his consistent performance would land him a permanent job especially when there are talks of IB planning to recommence the recruitment drive after 10 years.

IB received ₹50,000 from its CEO and MD, Mahesh Kumar Jain. IOB got ₹30,000.

The results:

Final: IB 3 (V. Surendar 6, Gnanavel 17 & 62) bt IOB 2 (Muthuselvan 37, Harmanpreet Singh 44). Man of the match: Rafeel; Man of the tournament: Gnanavel.

Third place play-off: ICF 2 (Aiyappan 39 & 63) bt Central Excise 1 (John 11).

The Hindu

Challengers out to close in on Scottish men’s and women’s league leaders

This is Grange`s chance to put the pressure back on men's first division leaders Bromac Kelburne who have no game this weekend; a win against second bottom side Clydesdale would put the Edinburgh side within two points of the champions, with five games left.

The Edinburgh side won the first fixture 7-2 with Callum Milne, Frank Ryan and Todd Mills all scoring twice. Grange then proceeded to beat the Glasgow side 11-0 in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup.

Certainly Grange will be without the services of Captain Cammie Fraser and Duncan Riddell, both still on Scotland duty at the World League in Belfast, but even then they would hope to have too much firepower for Clydesdale.

Clydesdale may have only won two games in the league this season, but are unbeaten since the restart after the winter shutdown with a win followed by three draws on the trot.

There is a struggle emerging for the final place in the top four between Edinburgh University and Uddingston, and the sides clash at Peffermill. If the fifth placed students are to make up the present three point gap, they must stifle the challenge of an Uddingston side that have rather spectacularly moved up the table in recent weeks, formerly relegation candidates now in fourth spot.

There is bound to be some movement in the lower half of the league, Hillhead have only taken a single point from their five games since the restart and they travel to Watsonians who are only three points behind them in seventh place.

It is to be hoped that there could be a repeat of the earlier encounter between the clubs, which produced no fewer than 13 goals, it was the Glasgow side who just shaded the goal avalanche that day.

Western Wildcats will look to emerge out of the 11 point log-jam with a home win over bottom side Gordonians, a result that would take Harry Dunlop`s pack out of the relegation play-off zone.

The Wildcats took the three points up in Aberdeen earlier in the season with a 4-2 victory, set piece expert Adam McKenzie scoring a hat-trick of penalty corners - a repeat of that result would suit Dunlop down to the ground.

In the women`s competition Edinburgh University are still on course for the league and cup double, and Sam Judge`s students have set out to dispose of seventh placed Erskine Stewart`s Melville, a side they defeated 5-1 earlier in the season.

The big challenge to Edinburgh`s hegemony appears to be coming from Grove Menzieshill, they are a point behind with two games in hand. The Taysiders could overtake the champions if they can see off Hillhead and then Wildcats in a double-header weekend.

Grove Menzieshill struggled to overcome Wildcats last time out and only managed the three points with a narrow 4-3 victory, Katie Robertson getting a double that day.

While the Dundonians might appear in a good position, they have yet to face either Edinburgh University or Milne Craig Western in the league and lost their season`s unbeaten record after losing 3-1 to Judge`s charges in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup last weekend.

Second placed Western should keep up the pressure at the top with a win at Watsonians.

It is an interesting mix at the top of the first division, inevitably the outcome will almost certainly be determined by the results between the leading contenders.

It is tight in the lower reaches of the league with only five points separating four clubs. Kelburne look to be the only member of that group to have a realistic chance of progressing up the table with an away fixture against a CALA side that have yet to record their first point of the campaign. The Paisley side will take confidence from the fact they won the earlier fixture 5-0 at Glasgow Green.

Dundee Wanderers are a long way behind fourth place - 12 points in fact - but they will hope to hold on to fifth place with a home win over second bottom Hillhead.

Photos by Duncan Gray and Mark Pugh

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Scottish Schools’ Cup and Plate finals - it's almost time!

The Scottish Schools’ Cup and Plate competitions will be held at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre on Friday 17 March, and is set to be one of the best nights on the Scottish Hockey calendar.

At the top of the bill, Stewart Melville College and Loretto will take to the pitch for the Open Boys’ Scottish Cup final in a match that is sure to be entertaining. It’s a re-run of last year’s final and Stewart's Melville College will be looking to avenge the emphatic 6-1 score line that ensured Loretto won the cup last time round. This is a match that is sure to deliver goals, drama, and great hockey – don’t miss it.

In the Open Girls’ Scottish Cup final, George Watson’s College will take on defending champions Mary Erskine School in what is also set to be an exciting final. Mary Erskine School won a dramatic final last year, defeating a valiant Craigholme 3-2. They have beaten some big names on route to the finals again this year but will face tough opposition in George Watson’s College. Victories against the High School of Glasgow, St Columba’s and George Heriots will have George Watson’s College raring to go in the final. Expect a tremendous encounter full of exciting hockey.

Schools Cup Fixtures

The opening match of the day will be the Girls’ Aspire Cup Final between St Margaret’s School and Trinity Academy. In last year’s final St. Margaret's Academy were worthy winners, defeating a determined Douglas Academy 11-0, and will be out to defend their title this year. Standing in their way is Trinity Academy who have been on top form throughout the competition. Their Captain, Sophie Kerr, is looking forward to the showdown. She said, “It has been an honour to captain the team this year and watch us improve throughout the season. I am proud of the girls for coming this far and now we are all looking forward to the final.”

The Boys’ Aspire Cup final will see Perth High School take on Beaconhurst and both teams have been in fine goal scoring form - expect an exciting contest in this encounter.

In the S3 Girls’ Plate final George Watson’s College will face Morrison’s Academy after they overcame Hutcheson Grammar and High School of Dundee respectively in the semi-finals.

Mary Erskine School will face Dollar Academy in the S3 Girls’ Cup final. Goals from Kirsten Oag and Hannah Marchant gave Dollar Academy a 2-0 success against Strathallan School in last year’s final, and a successful defence of their crown will be the target for Dollar. Mary Erskine went past last year’s finalists Strathallan in the semi-final and will hope to carry that good form into the final.

The S3 Boys’ Plate final will be a contest between Edinburgh Academy and Loretto. Edinburgh Academy were beaten finalists last year and will hope to go one step further this year. Loretto meanwhile will be a tough nut to crack and will hope that both their teams competing in finals this year will lift silverware.

Schools Cup Fixtures

Strathallan will go toe-to-toe with Stewart Melville College in the S3 Boys’ Cup final. Strathallan had to go past Fettes College, George Watson’s College, and Robert Gordon’s College on their route to the final, while Stewart Melville College clocked up victories against Jordanhill, Glenalmond, and Loretto to reach the final. It’s sure to be a great game with both sides targeting victory on finals day.

In the Open Girls’ Plate final Robert Gordons College will take on The High School of Glasgow with both battling to get their hands on the silverware. Both teams have overcome difficult obstacles to reach the final and are excited about the prospect of meeting on the big day.

Jocelyn Roberts, the Robert Gordon’s College coach, said, "Robert Gordon's College are excited to be a part of the Scottish Schools' Finals. We have overcome tough opposition on our way to the final of the plate and our team is ready for the challenge of the High School of Glasgow. Following on from the Scottish Schools new knockout competition I believe that the regular harder match exposure has made us more resilient in our own game.

“This competition has allowed us to play a variety of different schools from all over Scotland, which has been a great opportunity for our girls playing in Aberdeen."

The Open Boys Plate final will see GSOS/Bellahouston play Strathallan for the right to lift the trophy. Victories against Edinburgh Academy and Robert Gordon’s Academy have saw GSOS/Bellahouston reach the final, while Strathallan have gone past Aberdeen Grammar and Balerno High for the honour of finals day. Both teams have their sights set on victory and promise to offer a great contest.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Amanzimtoti High School wins SPAR Durban South School Girls’ Hockey Challenge

Wonderful display of hockey at School Girls Hockey challenge

by Rudy Nkgadima

Kuswag defender Jolene Lombard, supported by sweeper Mianka Wilmot (on left) rushes to claim the ball from New Forest High Schools’ Athenkosi Nobula (right) in one of the round robin matches in the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Tournament Durban South Regional that took place on Sunday, March 12 at the Three Schools Trust Astroturf.

FOR the third consecutive year, the first hockey team from Amanzimtoti High School raised the trophy as the Durban South Regional champions in the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Challenge played at the Three Schools Trust Astroturf in Glenwood on Sunday.

It was anyone’s trophy going into the last game of the round robin, with the statisticians working hard double checking the points. As the final whistle blew, Kuswag Skool had a guaranteed place in the final and a penalty shootout was required to decide on the second team, taking to the field for a Toti duel were Kingsway High School and the defending champions, Amanzimtoti.

Kingsway Defender Nosipho Mngadi hits hard down the field in an exciting match against Amanzimtoti High, one of the round robin matches in the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Tournament Durban South Regional that took place on Sunday, March 12 at the Three Schools Trust Astroturf.

Kingsway took the first attempt with Leoni de Beer meeting the full force of brave keeper, Nomcebo Maseko who charged out and met her at the top of the circle. At the end of the second round, the score was one a piece. Captain for Amanzimtoti, Phiwo Myeza took to the spot and fired in her shot, with the ball floating over the cross bar. The decider then went to a sudden death. Mngadi put her hand up and stepped up to the spot, she found the right boot of a charging Maseko with the ball flying out of the circle. The captain, Myeza then determinedly found the back of the net in her attempt, taking her team into the final.

Coach for Amanzimtoti High School, Shanna Hughes said, “Phiwo came up to me after she missed her first attempt and ensured me, ‘Don’t worry Ma’am, I’ve got this and she did. She also scored the goal in the final, leading by example!”

Coach for Kingsway High School, Lloyd Jones said, “Everything went right for us. We had quite a few young ones and they put their hands up! The day before we participated in the Scottburgh tournament and we go beaten, physically and on the scoreline. It was a hard day, knowing we had six tough games today we pulled in some U16s. My player of the team was most certainly Nosipho, who didn’t shy away from any challenge!”

Diving to her right, Teneze Csouros from Kingsway High attempts to cut off the first by Mvelo Mthombeni from Amanzimtoti High School during the penalty shootout decider for the regional finals at the Durban South Regional for the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Challenge.

At the Durban South Regional umpire Kalvin van Rensburg representing Kingsway High School shone with the whistle and took the honours of the M.P.U. this year.

MD for SPAR KZN, Max Oliva stated, “In the blustery, hot conditions the action on the turf kept turning up a notch as the day wore on! Thank you to Grosvenor Girls’, Kingsway, New Forest, Queensburgh Girls’ High, Werda and of course, our two finalists, for coming down and putting on such a wonderful display of hockey. Well done to all!”

Amanzimtoti takes the fourth berth at the Grand Finals and join St John’s DSG and St Anne’s who both earned their place on Saturday at the Pietermaritzburg regionals. The three teams will be accompanied by Ferrum who were crowned the Norther KZN Regional in Pongola.

Berea Mail

Sabah favourites to win Under-16 boys’ hockey title

KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah will begin as favourites to win their first IMAS-NSC-KPM-Milo-MHC National Un­der­-16 boys’ hockey championships, which begin at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium tomorrow.

They have retained 10 players from the team who won the National Under-14 title in Malacca two years ago for the Under-16 challenge.

The 10 are Granson Noel Goden, Hafizulhakim Abdul Salim, Selham Milsan, Muhamad Helmi Barkary, Azril Peter, Muhamad Salman Sudirman, Wilson Yasili, Muhammad Hasdar Haruna, Nasrul Syahkir Sadikul and Ahmad Amza Masri.

Sabah coach Hasrul Jideh admitted that they are well-prepared to win the National Under-16 boys’ title this year after finishing third last year.

“We take the age-group tournament seriously ... we want to do much better than the third placing last year,” said Hasrul, who guided Sabah to the National Under-14 title two years ago, said that most the players in the Under-16 team are from the Sabah Sports School Malaysia.

The coach expects Pahang, Perak and Johor to be their strongest challengers.

All 14 states will feature in the boys’ competition and Sabah are in Group C with Pahang, Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan.

Group A consists of defending champions Terengganu, Johor, Penang, Negri Sembilan and Kedah and Group B comprises last year’s runners-up Selangor, Malacca, Perak, Perlis and Sarawak.

Thirteen teams, except for Perlis, will feature in the girls’ competition.

Defending champions Selangor are in Group A with Kedah, sabah, Kelantan and Sarawak.

Penang, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and Pahang are in Group B while Group C consists of Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Johor and Perak.

The Star of Malaysia

Lucy meets her hockey heroes

Make a wish Lucy Attree with Susannah Townsend

Lucy Attree is 15 years old and loves hockey, she is also recovering from hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. It has always been her dream to meet and train with the GB women’s hockey team and today she was lucky enough to do just that with help from Make A Wish foundation.

‘It’s been amazing meeting them. These are people who you see on social media and idolise and then to meet them in person is very cool. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much!’

Lucy plays for Driffield Hockey club and has always been enjoyed hockey but due to treatment has had to play less; ‘It is a sport I have always been into, when I went up to secondary school my PE suggested I should get into a team and I found I really liked it!’

Lucy and her family travelled down from West Yorkshire to Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre where they started the morning in the gym with the drag flick crew, Giselle Ansley, Erica Sanders and Grace Balsdon. They were then taken on a tour of the EIS facilities, watched a training match, meet the players and was coached by England players with Susannah Townsend and Zoe Shipperley.  She even got to hold Susannah’s Rio Olympic medal. ‘The medal was really heavy. It was really good to get to hold a gold medal rather than see it in pictures.’

We want to wish Lucy and her family all the best and hope this day stays with her forever! 

England Hockey Board Media release

RIP Rita Parsons

It is with great sadness that Hockey Ireland have learned of the death of Rita Parsons.  An Honorary Life Member of Hockey Ireland and former President of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union and then Treasurer of the merged association in 2000.   As a mark of respect for Rita there will be a minute's silence observed at the World League 2 Quarter Final between Ireland Poland at 4.45pm today.   We wish to offer sincere condolences to her family.  RIP

Irish Hockey Association media release

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