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Southland Barbarians had a narrow 4-3 victory over Uni Black Panthers on Saturday in Otago men's premier club hockey.
The two teams were most in need of a win. Southland had a tough start in week one but had a scoreless draw last week, while University Black Panthers went the other way with a close loss to their clubmates as an opener but took a tough loss in week two.
The students got their game together first and after some continued possession, Southland native Cody McKenzie scored off a penalty corner to open the account against his old side.
The match settled back into a back-and-forth rhythm as Southland's midfield stalwarts Anton Hurley and Rob Dickie began to use their experience to control the game.
University struck again, however, when McKenzie found himself on the end of a pinpoint crash ball and a deft touch from the striker doubled the lead. The score remained 2-0 until the final quarter of the match when Southland swung into action.
Southland had chances earlier but had not been able to put consistent pressure on the Panthers.
However in the space of about seven minutes the game changed entirely. From a string of penalty corners Southland utilised a couple of slick variations from set piece and four straight deflections found the back of the Panthers' net. Southland went from trailing 2-0 to being up 4-2.
Somewhat in shock, the Panthers were unable to recover enough to get back in the game, and McKenzie completed his hat-trick by way of a penalty stroke with less than a minute left. But the clock was against them and Southland moved up to fourth after week three.
The other matches were also close, with Kings coming back from an early goal to beat Albany 2-1 while Taieri won a high-scoring shield challenge against Uni A 6-4 in a game that doubled as a now top-of-the-table clash. Points after week 3: Taieri 9, Uni A 8, Kings 8, Southland 5, Albany 4, Uni B 0.
- Matthew West