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Penny helps SA draw

A debut goal by striker Lauren Penny four minutes from the end saved the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team’s blushes as they drew the first of the five-Test Investec International Series 1-1 against Spain at Randburg Hockey Stadium on Sunday.

South Africa had more than their fair share of chances but could not find the target and it appeared that Olalla Pineiro’s neat field goal after 23 minutes would be the winner.

Spain, too, could have scored more than once, but they at least forced keeper Mariette Rix into making saves more often.

World number 11 Spain started well, moving the ball fluidly, and SA captain Marsha Marescia made a number of crucial interventions in defence. In the eighth minute, Tarryn Bright freed Marescia for the first shot of the match, but Spain came closest to opening the scoring soon after.

SA central defender Kate Woods celebrated her 150th Test cap while for Penny, who has been living and playing in England, it was also a special day.

Midway, world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee got in a strong shot and another soon after following good work by Jade Mayne, who got in a shot of her own minutes later; then Dirkie Chamberlain went just past the far post.

However, Spain scored against the run of play with a well-taken Pineiro field goal 12 minutes from the break (1-0). A great ball down the line led to the first penalty corner but Marescia cleared and not long after saved a near-certain goal on the post.

Five minutes after the changeover Mayne shot wide of the far post, a good opportunity, but a determined SA won their first and only PC with 21 minutes to go. However, Coetzee’s power shot after the corner set-up was initially bungled went wide. Marescia broke right a little later but shot wide.

Rix saved from Gloria Comerma with eight left but four minutes later the girls in gold equalised when Penny finished off at the far post after Bright had cut through decisively. Soon after, Chamberlain’s reverse-stick shot flew over the crossbar.

SA will need a much-improved effort in the second Test against the Spaniards at 7pm at Randburg on Tuesday.

In the curtain-raiser, the SA Senior Invitation team beat SA Junior Invitation 4-3. Tuesday’s curtain-raiser is at 5 pm.

Meanwhile, the SA men’s team begin their five-Test series against India in Delhi on Monday.