The Tassie Tigers men’s side have eased into the new Sultana Bran Hockey One league with a comfortable 5-1 win over Adelaide Fire in front of an appreciative home crowd at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre.
It was the Tigers first game in the new national competition, having sat out round 1 with a bye, but they showed they’ll be amongst the favourites to take out the inaugural title by extinguishing the Fire under lights.
The Tassie side wore black armbands in memory of 18 year-old Livinia Sproule, a talented player and loved member of the community who passed away at the end of the week just a day out from the Tigers historic opening match.
A quiet opening 9 minutes saw both sides play cautiously, but the match was opened up by some brilliant work from Kieron Arthur and Eddie Ockenden, who combined with some precision passing to pick out Sam McCambridge, who drew Fire ‘keeper Eddie Chittleborough and cut it back to the spot for a diving Nick Leslie to complete an easy deflection and score the opening goal in the 10th minute.
Leslie then doubled his score by making a conversion with a cheeky slip between Chittleborough’s pads to lead the Tigers into a 2-0 advantage at quarter-time.
Again the match settled back into a cautious, methodical pattern in the second quarter with limited opportunities at either end. A bit of incisive play in the 24th minute from James Bourke and Nick Leslie created a chance inside the circle, finding Hayden Beltz who slipped in a cross that was cleverly deflected in by Tiger’s legendary striker Sam McCambridge.
On this conversion this time, though, Chittleborough created enough pressure to force McCambridge to miss the chance at a double.
Chittleborough was drawn into another save a minute later, this time a brilliant stick save from a high Jeremy Hayward tommahawk from the top of the circle. He had an easier time saving a scuffed shot from Josh Beltz in the 27th minute after the Tassie Midfielder went on a long run into the circle before topping his opportunity harmlessly into the goalie’s pads.
With momentum heavily in their favour the Tigers pressed their advantage and won a penalty corner in the 28th minute, giving the Tasmanian crowd their first opportunity to see the Northern Territory’s superstar Jeremy Hayward make his first PC attempt for his new club. Hayward did not disappoint, firing a low drag-flick beyond Chittleborough to make it 4-0 and leave Tassie in a commanding position at the main break.
The third quarter saw the match turn into an end to end battle with Cameron White and Luke Larwood both asserting themselves on the contest early in an attempt to get Adelaide back into the match, and Andy Leat having a strong influence in a defensive midfield role.
But Larwood caught himself a 10 minute rest on the sidelines in the 37th minute when his diving challenge on Ben Read earned him an extended yellow card. Adelaide paid the price as, down a player, they conceded again in the 43rd minute when Eddie Ockenden made another precision circle entry to spot-up Hayden Beltz flying through. The younger Beltz brother showed a wonderful bit of close control to trap, dodge the defender, then finish into the bottom corner to score the Tiger’s fifth of the match.
With the teams restored to 11v11 in the final quarter the Tigers were happy to control the match forcing Adelaide to make all the running. Hirotaka Zendana made a lovely skilful run to create a circle entry, picking out Simon Wells who earned their first penalty corner. They attempted the PC variation outside the dotted 5-metre circle in order to create a field goal opportunity in the hopes of earning a conversion chance if they scored, but Cameron Joyce fired his shot wide – although it did clip Read’ foot for the Tigers and force another penalty corner.
The follow-up PC they attempted the exact same variation but this time it was run down by Kieron Arthur in the Tiger’s defensive unit.
In the 58th minute the Fire finally got on the scoreboard with Zendana scoring a drag-flick from a PC, but it was nothing more than a consolation.
The win marks the first for the Tassie Tigers in the new competition after having a bye in the first round, and they will now hit the road to take on the NSW Pride in Sydney in what promises to be one of the early deciding matches that will shape the Sultana Bran Hockey One men’s league. For the Fire, they finally get to play at home after two tough road trips, but it’ll be against one of the early bolters of the competition in the Brisbane Blaze.
Tassie Tigers 5 (Leslie 2, McCambridge, Hayward, H. Beltz)
Adelaide Fire 1 (Zendana)
Saturday 5 October 2019
Tasmanian Hockey Centre, Hobart (TAS)