After six days, 30 games and 108 goals, just four men’s and four women’s teams remain to battle it out in the CTM Premier Hockey League (PHL) finals at Randburg Astro.
This weekend saw the Wineland Wings face the Madikwe Rangers for a place in the quarter-finals, while the Namaqualand Daisies waited in anticipation for the final result of this game, which determined their fate in the tournament.
While other Wings players were feeling the pressure, it was Candice Manual who gave the team the lead, followed by young Stephanie Botha who extended the lead in the third quarter to 2-0 and gave the team a real chance.
Fortunately, the Rangers had South African World Cup squad member Kristen Paton in their squad and she pulled a goal back in the third quarter from a penalty corner followed by another goal in the last minute of the game, levelling the scores and taking the game to shootouts.
It was into the dreaded shootout for the Wings who were then eliminated from the tournament – their eighth straight shootout defeat.
With this outcome, the Daisies qualified for the semi-finals while the Rafters also became the first team in PHL history to complete a perfect group stage.
It was a short-lived celebration for the Daisies, though, as the Rafters’ Donna Small went on a slalom run that set up Lerato Mahlangu, the poacher who finished with a goal. With many attempts, the game saw no additional goals for both teams until the final whistle.
In another women’s game, both the Blyde River Bunters and the St. Lucia Lakers had qualified but will face each other again in the semi-finals.
In their previous face-off, Carmen Smith had lit up the game with her two penalty corners for the Bunters that forced the rebound back into her own half.
Next week Saturday, the Orange River Rafters’ reward for topping the table is a semi-final encounter with the Madikwe Rangers, while the Blyde River Bunters will face the St. Lucia Lakers again.
In the men’s tournament, two questions lingered: could the Mambas get a bonus point and qualify ahead of the defending champions the Cavemen? Could the Addo Elephants become the first men’s team to win five out of five games in the group stages of the PHL?
Unfortunately, the Mambas struggled to keep up with the combination play of the Dragons frontline and didn’t earn three points.
The Dragons underlined their title credentials with goals in all the remaining quarters through Mbuso Mgobozi, Richard Pautz and Amkelwe Letuka.
Even though Courtney Halle got a late goal back for the Mambas, both coaches pulled back their keepers for the last four minutes which gave the Mambas a chance to strike back an easy finish by Luthando Jonas.
Fortunately for Cameron Ryan, the goal by the Mambas did not cost the Dragons the victory in the end as they saw out a 3-2 win.
Sadly, Siya Nolutshungu decided the fate of the Elephants as his goal performance for the Gazelles denied them their fifth win over five games.
Brandon James gave the Gazelles the lead with a clinical finish, before Michael Abrahams and Gerald Mpopo both finished different opportunities in a similar manner.
Even though Ignatius Malgraff got a late consolation goal for the Elephants, they will face the Gazelles again in the semi-final next weekend, while the Cavemen will play the Dragons.
Day Six Results
Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants 1 Garden Route Gazelles 3
Elf Laminates Mapungubwe Mambas 2 Pro Grip Drakensberg Dragons 3
Top T Madikwe Rangers (3) *2 Ceramic Industries Wineland Wings 2 (1)
Tivoli Taps Blyde River Bunters 2 Private Property St. Lucia Lakers 0
Italtile Orange River Rafters 1 Old Mutual iWyze Namaqualand Daisies 0
CTM PHL 2018 semi-finals
Saturday 25 August
Tivoli Taps Blyde River Bunters vs. Private Property St. Lucia Lakers
Top T Madikwe Rangers vs. Italtile Orange River Rafters
Origins Maropeng Cavemen vs. Pro Grip Drakensberg Dragons
Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants vs. Garden Route Gazelles
Photo: Mbuso Mgobosi on the charge for the Drakensberg Dragons (main picture) and Kelsey Minnaar driving the ball forward for the Orange River Rafters, by Sean Burke/PHL