Investec London Cup: Finals Day Round Up.

The first competition to be held at England Hockey’s new home, Lee Valley came to an end in front of an enthusiastic crowd in the sun today. The Investec London Cup was won, in both men’s and women’s competitions by the hosts. Find out all the details of the final day of competition here. 

Men’s 3rd/4th Playoff: South Africa 3-0 Scotland.
South Africa sealed third place with their best performance of the competition to run out 3-0 winners over Scotland. A brace from Skipper Austin Smith and a lovely goal from 19-year-old Daniel Sibbald did the damage as Fabian Gregory’s team finally showed what they can do.

South Africa had the first effort on goal in the tenth minute. Jonty Robinson played a perfect aerial ball from the right touchline into the D to pick out Lloyd Norris-Jones who pulled the ball down and drew a stunning save from Gavin Sommerville in the Scotland goal. They continued to dominate the opening exchanges but found Sommerville in inspired form pulling off a superb treble save to frustrate Tim Drummond, Norris-Jones and Sibbald in quick succession.

At the other end Rassie Pieterse showed his reactions to make a fine save from a Wei Adams deflection, Scotland’s first clear effort on goal. Derek Forsyth’s side forced a flurry of penalty corners just before the break but Dan Coultas was unable to find the net and the game remained deadlocked at half time.

Ten minutes after the break the game had its first goal. Smith ripped an unstoppable penalty corner into the net beyond the goalkeeper’s reach to his right. Sibbald squandered a great chance when given time and space in the D, shooting wide but then he made no mistake with eight minutes remaining. He won the ball in the Scotland half, swapped passes with Wade Paton and then lifted a splendid finish over the onrushing goalkeeper for 2-0. Two minutes later Smith rounded off the scoring with a low penalty corner that went in off the goalkeeper’s pads.

South Africa, as is often their way, started to come good at the end of a tournament. They will hope to maintain that momentum in the Commonwealth Games.

 Women’s 3rd/4th Playoff: Scotland 3-2 Wales.
Goals from Nikki Lloyd, Vikki Bunce and Ali Bell were enough to give Scotland the win and third place in the Investec London Cup but they were made to work hard by a stubborn display from Amanda Partington’s Wales.

Scotland had a chance to go ahead in the seventh minute but Nikki Kidd was denied by a good save from Ria Male who continued her excellent run of form in the competition. There was nothing Male could do to keep out Scotland’s opener, as Emily Maguire and Ali Bell linked up allowing Lloyd to sweep in from close range.
Cat Ralph thought she had given Scotland a second but her penalty corner strike was ruled out after the ball was adjudged to have not left the circle. Four minutes before the break they did get their second. A clearance fell kindly for Bunce who made no mistake and slotted home. There was still time for Male to make another save from a Kidd penalty corner ensuring it was still 2-0 at the break.

The second half was a bit of a scrap with Wales digging deep and Scotland seemingly content to settle for what they had. Bell scored a third  goal eleven minutes after the interval but then Wales began a spirited fightback:  Phoebe Richards found time and space inside the D on the right and fired a rocket into the roof of the net for a splendid goal. Kidd was kept out once again by Male from another corner as both sides battled for control of the game. With the ball being turned over in the middle of the field, chances in the closing stages were hard to come by. Wales won a penalty corner with the last play and executed a textbook routine. Leah Wilkinson smashed the ball in for Emma Batten to deflect in another brilliantly worked corner, to the delight of the crowd. Scotland picked up the all important win and will continue to build for the Commonwealth Games. As for Wales, as one of the England Hockey volunteers tweeted, they lost the game, but won the crowd’s hearts. Spot on.

Men’s Final: England 2-2 Ireland (4-2 after shootout.)

England got their hands on the Investec London Cup with a dramatic shootout win over Ireland but they were pushed all the way by Craig Fulton’s side who snatched a 2-2 draw courtesy of a last minute strike from Michael Darling. England had led through Alastair Brogdon, before Eugene Magee levelled it up. They then stuck again through David Condon but Ireland would not go down easily and had to be seen off by some excellent work from George Pinner, who saved twice in the shootout to seal the win.

The two sides met in a dress rehearsal for this fixture yesterday, with England running out comfortable winners. On this occasion, however John Jackson and his team made it far from easy for their hosts, defending superbly and keeping the ball much better than they had in the previous encounter.

Brogdon’s goal came after just six minutes. The Wimbledon man kept his head in a crowded circle to lift the ball over David Harte with a neat reverse stick chip. England were having a good spell of chances and captain Barry Middleton almost played Phil Roper in, but Harte was out well to sweep it clear with his stick. Mark Gleghorne blazed a penalty corner over the bar and Brogdon was just wide after a great bit of link up play from Condon and Dan Fox. Ireland were hanging in there and England still had only the one goal for their efforts. Ashley Jackson, later named player of the tournament and Middleton delighted the crowd with some wonderful individual skills but still the second goal did not come.

A minute after the break England were made to pay. A blocked cross popped up nicely for Magee who fired into the bottom corner. Jackson and Middleton almost combined to set up a diving Henry Weir  but he could not quite get the finishing touch, to re-establish the lead. Then on 49 minutes, England did take the lead once more. A right wing cross broke kindly for Condon in the D and his fierce shot found the net via a deflection. With four minutes to play Middleton was shown a yellow card and with just a minute to go Ireland rescued a draw. A cross from the left found its way to Darling and he made no mistake, guiding the ball home.

The game went straight to shootout, with Ireland going first. Alan Sothern was brought down by Pinner and a stroke was awarded which the No10, sporting a quite splendid beard, despatched with a minimum of fuss. Jackson made it 1-1 with a cool finish and then Pinner made a terrific save, stretching every inch of his giant frame to block from Mikey Watt. Middleton showed nerves of steel to slot his effort in and then Pinner somehow recovered from a prone position to block Magee’s effort. Harry Martin stepped up and spun away from Harte before lifting the ball in and although Sothern scored another stroke after Pinner had brought down Robson, Simon Mantell did superbly to score his effort and give England the win.

Women’s Final: England 2-1 South Africa.

A penalty corner goal from Samantha Quek five minutes from time secured England a hard fought 2-1 win over South Africa ensuring they took home the Investec London Cup in front of a partisan home crowd at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre. Quek popped up to beat Anelle van Deventer with a precise drag flick ensuring Jade Mayne’s first half equaliser was in vain for the visitors.

England took an early lead in the game from a third minute penalty corner. Quek was involved, firing the ball in for Nicola White to get a telling deflection to make it 1-0. Spurred on a by an enthusiastic home crowd Alex Danson showcased her 3D skills with a lovely run cutting in from the left side into the D before hitting a bouncing ball just wide.

Maddie Hinch had to be alert to see off a snap shot from Kathleen Taylor but it wasn’t long before South Africa drew level. Lilian Du Plessis set up Mayne and the former Canterbury striker did what she does best and finished superbly, lifting the ball over Hinch and into the net. Kate Richardson-Walsh and Quek went close from a penalty corner and Danson was unlucky that her quick thinking on a free hit was not rewarded as her shot went wide.

The half time interval came and went as both sides battled for midfield supremacy. The game became increasingly physical with both sides testing each other out and searching for the advantage. A well worked corner routine almost brought England another goal but Susannah Townsend’s deflection crashed against the post and out. Kirsty Mackay, a half time replacement for Hinch in goal, made a superb save from Shelley Russell, diving to her right as South Africa threatened to spoil the party.

England seemed to be finishing strongly and with five minutes to go, they took the lead with Quek’s penalty corner. They almost made it 3-1 when Sophie Bray, who had a fine tournament, deflected a Danson cross onto the bar. South Africa squandered a late chance to tie the game up and England held on for a morale boosting win ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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