Two high octane hockey matches have seen Brisbane Blaze Men and Hockey Club Melbourne Women prevail in another Super Saturday Sultana Bran Hockey One League double header to conclude Round 4.
Goalkeeper Mitchell Nicholson starred as Brisbane Blaze shot to the top of the ladder and all but extinguished HC Melbourne’s finals hopes with a 4-0 win in front of another excellent crowd at the Queensland State Hockey Centre.
The win sees the Brisbane Blaze Men go into first spot as they sit on the same points as the Perth Thundersticks and NSW Pride, although the Pride have a game in hand.
Needing to win to keep their chance of featuring at the Sultana Bran Hockey One League Finals Main Event in Bendigo alive, HC Melbourne threw the kitchen sink at the Blaze.
However, an outstanding display between the posts by Nicholson, coupled by a third quarter purple patch that saw the hosts score three goals in two minutes, ultimately determined the result.
From the opening pushback HC Melbourne showed they were not going to be left wondering as the match started at a frenetic pace.
After adjusting to the tempo, the home side then looked to turn on the blow torch early with several threatening forays forward.
A well directed drag flick from HC Melbourne captain Josh Simmonds with two minutes to go in the first quarter almost broke the deadlock but it was blocked on the line.
Simmonds had another chance before the first interval and again he was denied as Nicholson pulled off a sharp save with an outstretched right foot.
When Kookaburra Corey Weyer was bundled over in the attacking circle to earn the Blaze a penalty corner in the 26th minute, it spelt danger for HC Melbourne as drag flick specialist Joel Rintala loomed large.
The danger was warranted as Brisbane’s number 7 duly stepped up and hammered his drag flick into the backboard to make it 1-0.
With their finals aspirations hanging in the balance, HC Melbourne remained full of intent and desire but could not equalise heading into half time.
The Blaze survived another HC Melbourne penalty corner before the Queenslanders blew the game apart in a 90 second burst.
First Scott Boyde scored a screamer after receiving the ball just inside the circle on the right hand side, smashing his quick fire shot into the top corner.
Johan Durst in the HC Melbourne goal prevented Boyde from converting the conversion opportunity to keep the visitors in touch.
But within the blink of an eye Brisbane Blaze was in again through a diving and committed Jake Whetton from close range as he managed to knock in a searching ball from Anderson the left despite colliding with Durst.
The Kookaburras midfielder clinically beat the HC Melbourne keeper with his conversion attempt and suddenly it was 4-0.
Jake Sherren again bought the best out of Nicholson from HC Melbourne’s seventh penalty corner as the Victorians looked for a quick reply.
With desperation levels at their peak and time running out to salvage their season, HC Melbourne coach Lachlan Anderson withdrew Durst with 7 minutes remaining to give them an extra outfield player.
When Weyer won a penalty stroke for the hosts to extend the margin to five, it spelt curtains for HC Melbourne but his effort was brilliantly saved by Durst, who reappeared for the stroke.
A swift HC Melbourne move ended with the lively Nathan Ephraums on the left but again Nicholson kept the shot out to clinch his clean sheet.
Despite the result being beyond them, HC Melbourne’s approach and never say die attitude was on show in the final seconds as Josh Bretherton denied the Blaze a fifth with a desperate diving effort to keep out a ball that was goal bound.
“It was a great performance from the boys. They support me and I just try to support them from the back,” said Nicholson.
“At home in front of family and friends I’m really happy to come away with the win.”
Brisbane Blaze now prepare to take on NSW Pride, their opponents from the inaugural Sultana Bran Hockey One League Grand Final, in Sydney.
HC Melbourne have the bye before returning against Adelaide Fire on Thursday 3 November.
Brisbane Blaze 4 (Rintala 26’, Boyde 41’, Whetton 42’/42’)
HC Melbourne 0
Saturday 22 October 2022
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Umpires: Ben de Young & Steve Rogers
Brisbane Blaze Men’s team: 2.Shane Kenny, 3.Corey Weyer, 5.Lucas Brown, 6.Josh Mynott, 7.Joel Rintala, 8.Adam Imer, 9.Jacob Anderson, 11.Michael Francis, 12.Jake Whetton (c), 15.Cale Cramer, 16.Tim Howard (c), 17.Scott Boyde, 19.Tyler Arundell, 27.Jared Taylor, 32.Mitchell Nicholson (gk)
HC Melbourne Men’s team: 1.Craig Marais, 2.Max Hendry, 3.Jonathan Bretherton, 5.Doug Buckley, 6.Damon Steffens, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 8.Lachlan Steinfort, 10.Russell Ford, 13.Jayshaan Randhawa, 15.Josh Simmonds (c), 17.Kiran Arunasalam, 18.Johan Durst (gk), 20.Josh Bretherton, 21.Jake Sherren, 22.Nathan Copey
HC Melbourne have signalled themselves as a genuine title contender after defeating Brisbane Blaze 2-1 in an arm wrestle of a contest in Brisbane.
Josie Lawton’s 53rd minute winner sends the Victorians to the top of the table and exacts some revenge on the team they lost to in the 2019 Grand Final.
Both sides entered the match in impressive and winning form, looking to build on their positive momentum.
From the outset there were no backward steps being taken. This was epitomised when exciting young Hockeyroo and Brisbane Blaze Hannah Cullum-Sanders was streaming forward, only fore her mazy run to be halted by what appeared to be a nasty head clash with experienced HC Melbourne defender Megan Alakus.
The impact saw Cullum-Sanders leave the pitch, however she would soon return to the fray.
Successive penalty corners from the Blaze saw them have the better of the chances, however it was HC Melbourne who went ahead against the run of play in spectacular fashion through Hannah Cotter.
Amy Lawton superbly attracted four Blaze defenders before finding a free Nicola Hammond who found Cotter in the D and she positioned herself superbly to fire high into the back of the net on the reverse for her fourth goal of the season.
Blaze goalkeeper Jordan Bliss saved well from Cotter’s conversion to keep the deficit at one.
HC Melbourne were forced to repel eight penalty corners from the Blaze in the opening quarter, the home side unable to break through Melbourne’s stubborn defences.
The next decent opportunity came when Rosie Malone produced some sublime skill along the baseline in what would have been one of the goals and plays of the season, however HC Melbourne goalkeeper Rachael Lynch was well positioned to foil the chance.
Lynch was again called upon to swat away a stinging Cullum-Sanders shot as the end to end action continued. HC Melbourne’s defence remained resolute as the Blaze tried to force the issue.
The HC Melbourne dam wall finally broke in the 49th minute when Hockeyroo Claire Colwill deftly steered the ball to Tatum Stewart from a planned penalty corner move.
Stewart had time to pick her spot and hammer a fierce shot straight through the legs of Lynch to square it up at 1-1 and set up a pulsating finale.
With the tails up and the home crowd behind them, the Blaze would have been the ones to think they were in the box seat to snatch a winner but this HC Melbourne outfit is made of tough stuff and they proved it yet again.
Josie Lawton took the ball into the circle on the right before hitting a shot that came off the sweet spot of the stick. The ball took slight but telling deflection off Ashlea Fey as Lawton watched it finish in the back of the net.
Bliss again prevented the margin from being greater as she won the one-on-one battle with Lawton in the conversion opportunity.
But as the heavens opened and the rain started to fall to make handling conditions more difficult, HC Melbourne would hold on to secure another valuable five points.
“We started strongly…it was a good team effort. We’re passing the ball nicely so it was a good win,” said Cotter post match.
Brisbane Blaze 1 (Stewart 49’)
HC Melbourne 2 (Cotter 12’, J.Lawton 53’)
Saturday 22 October 2022
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Umpires: Aleisha Neumann & Deb O’Connell
Brisbane Blaze Women’s team: 1.Savannah Fitzpatrick, 2.Ambrosia Malone, 3.Casey Dolkens, 4.Ashlea Fey, 5.Morgan Gallagher (c), 7.Hannah Cullum-Sanders, 12.Tatum Stewart, 13.Rebecca Greiner, 14.Meg Pearce, 19.Morgan Mathison, 22.Britt Wilkinson, 24.Claire Colwill, 25.Kyra Livermore, 30.Georgina West, 88.Jordan Bliss (gk)
HC Melbourne Women’s team: 2.Aisling Utri, 3.Nicola Hammond, 4.Amy Lawton, 5.Krissy Bates, 6.Josie Lawton, 8.Hannah Cotter, 9.Carly James, 10.Rosario Villagra, 11.Joanne Peeters, 12.Emily Hamilton-Smith, 13.Megan Alakus, 14.Anna Moore, 15.Olivia Downes, 25.Hannah Gravenall (c), 27.Rachael Lynch (gk)