Kings strike back to take title

Craig Turner (left), of King’s United, flicks the ball past Callum Dempster  (University Blue...
Craig Turner (left), of King’s United, flicks the ball past Callum Dempster (University Blue Whales) during the men’s Otago Hockey Association premier men’s final at the Mcmillan Turf in Dunedin on Saturday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Sport can be the cruellest. That’s as simple as one can sum it up for University Blue Whales  on Saturday as Kings United crept up  like a thief in the night to claim victory in the Otago Hockey Association premier men’s final.

Kings came into the match as top qualifier and with the better of the records in the individual matchups between the sides this season, but there was still a feeling  the defending champion  University was probably the favourite going into the game.

The first half of the match involved a lot of  cautious play, with neither side  keen to be the first to make a telling mistake. While there were  a few chances offered,  none was particularly threatening as the first half ticked away.

The second half was a different affair as right from the restart the Whales were hot on attack and looking dangerous, their weight of possession and territory began to tell and the University strikers found themselves in dangerous positions. However the first goal came soon after a Kings attack had gone begging and University came up the other end. From a long corner a quick  pass into the circle found a diving Nick Morgan, who got the smallest of touches through the keeper’s legs and into the backboard.

The Whales continued to push hard and created a couple of real chances  but it was a long ball down to striker Mark Bell-Kake  which looked to have put the game to bed as he turned swiftly, beat the last defender and got around the goalie to smash the ball home and double the lead.

However, Kings have made a real habit of last-minute scoring this season and the top qualifiers were not about to let the last few minutes slide away. After a sustained surge in pressure a penalty corner attempt hit a University defender in the side of the face  and unluckily for him this led to a penalty stroke for Kings,  which was expertly converted by Campbell Paton with just two minutes remaining.

At 2-1 the panic was on and with mere seconds left the usually calm University Whales defence conceded a somewhat soft  penalty corner for a mistrap on to a foot. The ensuing minutes were almost out of a movie script as the game would not end — Kings were unable to score while University could not clear its  goalmouth. There were several consecutive penalty corners and after multiple resets Hitaua Doyle found an equaliser with an unlikely flick through the goalie’s legs.

Extra time beckoned and the game opened up, as each 5 minute period two fewer  players are allowed on the pitch.

At 7 a side, Paton was able to find an unmarked Craig Turner in the circle and he

deflected the ball into the net and Kings completed their unlikely comeback to take the title.

Albany Alligators finished 3rd, with  Taieri Tuataras fourth and University Black Panthers fifth in the final premier standings. The division two final was won by Albany Development, which beat  Taieri Raptors,  and Taieri Turtles beat  Kings United Masters to retain their third division title.

- Matthew West

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