For the second year in a row, Bathurst Souths eliminated Lithgow Zig Zag from the men’s Premier League Hockey title race, the two blues posting a 6-3 win on Saturday.
Last year at Bob Roach Field it was a nail-biting preliminary final shoot-out that Souths won over Zig Zag, this time the victory came in a minor semi-final which featured a flurry of first half goals.
Seven goals came in the opening half, and six of those within the space of 19 minutes.
But Souths had the better of the attacking play to lead 5-2 at half-time and from there went on with the job.
The win was Souths’ second in as many weeks over Zig Zag and continued the two blues’ impressive run against the Lithgow outfit.
“They were a very different team to what they were last week, they had a lot more structure and a lot more purpose in what they were doing,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.
“It was pretty frantic for the first 20 minutes, it was probably one of the quicker games and the skill level was very, very good. I thought the quality of play by both teams was very strong.
“It lived up to what an elimination semi-final should be.
“We tried to create space behind them, because they are very quick and very solid in defence. But I was confident if we went wide and go long and turn them, we’d create chances to put them under pressure.”
It was former Orange Wanderers player-coach Matt Johnston who opened scoring after just three minutes, slotting home from the top of the circle for Souths from a penalty corner play.
But Zig Zag hit back to make it all square in the 11th minute when Eli Shirt intercepted a loose defensive pass.
From the restart Zig Zag won back possession and launched another attacking raid. The visitors drew a penalty corner and Hunter Medcalf slotted home.
However, the lead lasted just over a minute as Nick McEwan found a quick reply and when Jono Baillie scored from his first touch of the game soon after, Souths was 3-2 up.
The goals continued to come as a smart Nathan Burke finish put the hosts 4-2 ahead in the 19th minute, Baillie then combining with Dan Carter to make it 5-2 at the break.
As well as the goals, the tense first half also saw two players from each side green-carded.
The second stanza saw Souths push further ahead as McEwan made it a brace for the match, but then the two blues become more defensive.
It was in part due to Zig Zag renewing its offensive pressure and it finally led to Medcalf’s second.
Zig Zag continued to press, Rudge making a nice save on the right post to deny Mitch Brain, but there was no further additions to the score.
Souths had 10 shots for the match, with only three of those not on target. They will now meet St Pat’s in the preliminary final.
“I knew they’d come back stronger in the second half and they did, they pushed us very hard in the second half. It was 1-1 in the second half, but we did the job that we needed to do,” Winwood-Smith said.
“We probably went into a bit of a defensive mode and took away that element of attack we had in the first half, but in saying that, we absorbed a lot of their attack and they threw everything at us.”