GNL men. It was almost an intertown match-up during Saturday’s Greater Northern League Division One clash as the Rocky Cape Tavern Saints took on Burnie Baptist on home turf.
No fewer than six former Saints stood on the opposite side of the field, now dressed in blue.
The competitiveness was apparent from the outset as Baptist took control early with the strikers pushing quickly into attack.
Hard and physical hockey was on show as Smithton worked to keep Burnie’s forwards away.
Jeremy Tuson again led from the midfield as his work rate outdid his blue counterpart while Jason House and John Innes-Smith dropped into defence in order to establish some offence. Their hard running was rewarded early when Smithton earned a penalty corner on one of their first ventures forward, leaving Joe Coombs to finish the passage of play with his signature drag flick.
Baptist rallied and again pushed into attack.
Saints keeper Dylan Jago worked hard giving direction and making important saves but a quick turnover and crossing pass was his undoing as a deflection found its way behind his pads.
Smithton began the second half at a much higher tempo; Keegan Popowski found himself in the midfield and his ball speed allowed strikers Sam Porteus-Smith and Daniel Thorp plenty of room to work.
Smithton were unlucky not to score from multiple passages of attacking play as Baptist’s defence dug in to thwart every attempt.
When given opportunity the Burnie strikers were able to show how dangerous they really were and without the work of Nathan Johns at halfback, the score could easily have blown out.
Despite Johns’ work rate, Baptist again utilised that cross-face deflection to go one ahead however the Saints would level scores again soon after. When a shot on goal struck a Burnie defender behind the keeper, a penalty stroke was awarded to Smithton; Coombs again placing the ball into the side net, the scores were tied with minutes to play.
Desperation and physicality was the story for the remainder of the game as both sides struggled to get the upper hand. Baptist would win the struggle however when another corner was given. The corner was played wide and caught the Saints defenders wrong footed. Baptist led with less than a minute on the clock.
The Saints threw everything into one last charge forward but were beaten for time; a disappointing 3-2 loss after such a competitive game.
The Saints will play their first away game for the season this week, travelling to Launceston to take on Tamar Churinga.