ENGLAND’s ladies clinched the gold medal in the final of the Investec London Cup with a nail-biting 2-1 win over South Africa.
The win completes a dream double for England Hockey with both the men’s and women’s sides claiming top honours on the newly opened pitch at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Sunday.
The hosts got the dream start earning a PC in the opening two minutes. The ball was switched left to Sam Quek whose ball was deflected home by Nicola White.
A typically marauding Alex Danson run soon followed, opting to take the ball on the open side, rather than her favoured reverse, she juggled the ball on her stick on the run, created space, but shot wide.
An African attack forced an early low safe from Maddie Hinch in the England net, the visitors employing the high press that was so devastating against Wales, to good effect again.
After 16 minutes South Africa pulled a goal back, as England were dispossessed in midfield and Jade Mayne shooting high into the net, on the day of her 100th cap.
England won a rather fortuitous penalty corner when Lucy Wood’s cross pinged off the post and on a defender’s foot, but the shot was blocked and follow-up from Wood went wide.
Late in the half despite a Danson shot into the side netting after taking a quick free-hit, the visitors began to dominate the midfield and it was clear they intended to upset the party.
After the break Danson continued to threaten with probing runs and Lucy Wood, who was also making a nuisance of herself, won a penalty corner after drawing a cynical foul.
Kate Richardson Walsh’s shot was met at the right post by Susannah Townsend whose deflection battered off the post and away.
The Africans countered at lightning pace but Kirsty Mackay, now in goal for Hinch, punted the threat clear.
The visitors won a penalty corner soon after when Richardson-Walsh fouled on the edge of 22-metre line. The ball was slipped left buy Mackay saved the resulting shot comfortably.
In the 50th minute, Sophie Bray broke into the South African circle and shot on the reverse, but again into the side netting.
Soon after Nicola White won the hosts another penalty corner, but Richardson-Walsh’s effort failed to trouble Anelle van Deventer in the South African goal.
In the last 15 minutes the English players regained their hold on the game throwing waves of attacks, with Lily Owsley exploiting openings down the right to good effect.
With seven minutes left in the game, it was Owsley who broke into the circle after great work by Susannah Townsend, and won penalty corner.
The ball switched left again and Quek fired down the middle to score the winner.
England looked to have got a third soon after, but Bray’s deflection rattled out off the crossbar and the hosts saw out the match with the one-goal margin.
Speaking after the game, Sam Quek said the win was important after the disappointment of the ninth place finish in the World Cup in The Hague last month. She added: “It is really good as we have just come out of a really hard two-week training block.
“It was not the prettiest but it was nice to come out with the win.”
South Africa’s Dirkie Chamberlain spoke of her disappointment and not getting a win over the hosts in either of their two meetings during the cup.
She added: “It was a difficult game, but I think we knew it was going to be.
“England had just that extra something that we lacked.
“I don’t think we really valued ball possession as much as England and gave it away too easily, especially in attacking movements.
“It was a good practice tournament, we’re going to look at all the videos and fix as much as we can.
“It is in us [to win these games] and I know we can do it.”