GNL men. South Burnie have been on a roll throughout the opening rounds of the Greater Northern League season, so held momentum in their favour when they arrived in Smithton on Saturday.
The Rocky Cape Tavern Saints on the other hand, have been gradually building and are now considered a team on the rise.
These team attributes were something to be reckoned with as the two sides met in a round six clash for the ‘Wealth Financial Shield’ at the Smithton Hockey Centre.
The Saints’ defence was placed under pressure almost instantly as the Hawks’ forwards used their speed and accuracy to slip some dangerous balls into attack. However, Saints keeper Dylan Jago kept Smithton in the game with some spectacular clearing saves.
As Smithton’s game plan forged together, Nathan Johns and Jason House were given adequate room in the midfield to set up attacking opportunity.
The Saints looked dangerous as their strikers began to outplay the Hawks’ defence.
Just as Smithton began to build momentum, the rug was pulled out when centre half Keegan Popowski limped from the field with a hamstring strain.
Joe Coombs assumed the midfield role and began to settle the Saints.
South Burnie snatched the opportunity to apply attacking pressure again. A series of penalty corners were successfully defended prior to the half time break and Smithton went into the change confident that they had the upper hand.
Following the restart, much of the fast-paced action the large home crowd enjoyed in the first half resumed with Johns missing a goal by a coat of paint in the opening seconds.
South quickly shifted the play from left to right and back again, keeping Smithton on the back foot.
Saints halfbacks Liam McLaren and Dan Cramer were exceptional in shutting down the Hawks’ offence from either side and providing overlapping support to the Smithton strikers.
South eventually broke the stalemate in controversial fashion as a Burnie striker pounced, forcing a penalty corner after a Smithton player alerted the umpire to an incorrect decision. Smithton’s honesty cost them a goal as the corner was converted.
Smithton were slow to settle after this setback, however the Saints’ strikers were determined to punish the Hawks.
Sam Porteus-Smith, fresh from his selection in the Tasmanian U/16 side, was too slick for the South defenders as his ball control and speed proved an advantage for the Saints.
Porteus-Smith was duly supported by Richard Cornish whose perfected tap and run can outdo most defenders.
Add the strength of Kade Wooldrage and Smithton’s strikers were able to put on an offensive class for a 10-minute period in the middle of the half.
Despite the pressure, speed and strength of the Saints, South Burnie’s keeper was on fire, making some spectacular saves.
It was Daniel Thorp who levelled the scores, his shot on goal easily defeating the goalie.
Both teams dug in and fast physical hockey ended the game but neither side was able to trouble the scoreboard again, finishing 1-1.
In Division Two action, the Saints went down 6-0 against South Burnie.
With the results of the Div One men and women and Div Two game tallied up, the ‘Wealth Financial Shield’ was returned to South Burnie.
The Saints will host City Marians in Smithton this weekend, the home game a welcome advantage for the growth of the young Saints.