|August 1st, 2012|
|10||Pool A||4:00pm||RSA - GBR||2 - 2 (0 - 1)||Final|
Great Britain and South Africa’s closing ten minutes ran the gamut of emotions, providing enough entertainment to make up from an otherwise scrappy encounter to leave honours even. Ashley Jackson’s first half goal had the hosts ahead for much of the game but a response from Austin Smith and Johnny Robinson’s cracking low drive in the closing stages almost pulled off the biggest shock of the men’s competition to date. But a controversial late goal, credited to Jackson, brought the game back to 2-2 after a pulsating close.
Jackson provided the highlights of a low-key first half, his most notable contribution an excellent rising drag-flick into the roof of the net. He won the 14th minute corner himself with a piercing drive into the circle and he had Britain’s two other shots of note. The first he aerialled over, the other was a drag-flick, which Rassie Pieterse did well to palm away.
For South Africa’s part, Thornton McDade nipped in to steal from Ben Hawes’ miscontrol but he was unable to find a route to goal with seconds left on the clock before the interval. For the most part, Britain could not find the flow that marked their opening win over Argentina as the Africans played a compact game that shrivelled the space available. They began to show more intent as time wore on and, from their only corner while Jonty Clarke was in the sin bin, Smith stepped up to make it a real contest. Robinson bullied his way into space from the left edge for a thunderous lead goal, putting the raucous Riverbank crowd on tenterhooks.
British attacks became fraught and the South African defence desperate as they attempted to withstand a barrage. This stepped over with the replacement of James Fair for an extra outfield player and it paid dividends within seconds. Richard Smith’s angled ball into the mixer took a couple of deflections, one which Roel van Eert saw coming from Jackson’s stick. It certainly also hit a South African foot. They argued it hit Jackson’s back stick but the umpire’s referral showed nothing conclusive to rule out the goal.
And they might have won it with a final second penalty corner but Pieterse did well to block Jackson’s hat-trick bid. It provided a thrilling end to Barry Middleton’s 100th game in a British jersey as his side stay second in the group rankings while South Africa have their first point of the competition.
Glen KIRKHAM (GBR), on his feelings on the final result: "Obviously at 2-1 down with five minutes to go, anything is better than that basically. I think sometimes it kind of takes that pressure off a little bit, you've just got to go at them and throw everything at them and see what can happen. It was a game that going into we wanted to come out with a good result, that result being a win. We've haven't come out with it so we're disappointed."
On how South Africa were allowed back into the match: "I think at times in that second half we gave them too much time on the ball, allowed them to increase their play in the game and allowed them back into it."
Erasmus PIETERSE (RSA) on the way the game went in contrast to the first match against Australia: "That's what we are all about. We're fighters, we bounce back. I'm so proud of our boys. We tied up the defence and that made the difference.
"We had long discussions after our match against Australia where we went down 6-0. And we did our homework on the Brits. We are bottom in the rankings (12) so to take any points off Great Britain ranked four makes us very happy."
On playing against Great Britain in a stadium where 90% of the spectaors where supporting GBR: "It was amazing, so special. The Brits really get stuck in. They appreciate good hockey and they always get stuck in. It has been a pleasure."
Iain LEWERS (GBR), on the game: "We showed a lot of fighting spirit and we dug in. But I think we were lucky to even pick up a point in that match. We will take it as it comes and move on to the next match.
"It was never going to be an easy match, it's never going to be an easy group. We will just have to dig in and hope things go our way and take it on the chin. I think we can move on from it."