Former Wanderers leading men inspire Souths to grand final appearance

JOB DONE: Jono Cole hugs Keiran Gentles after combining for a goal. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

JOB DONE: Jono Cole hugs Keiran Gentles after combining for a goal. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

Five goals in 20 minutes.

Bathurst Souths’ strong finish against St Pat’s on Saturday has the two blues – including former Orange Wanderers player-coaches Keiran Gentles and Matt Johnson – one win away from a men’s Premier League Hockey title.

Souths finished the preliminary final at Bob Roach Field – the first between the Bathurst rivals in eight years – with a 6-1 win to advance to the decider alongside Lithgow Panthers.

While Souths had enjoyed a glut of attacking chances in the opening half, St Pat’s goalkeeper Taylor Newton had been superb to deny the two blues on all but one occasion.

When Tyler Willott put the Saints back on level terms as he slapped the ball in from a penalty corner play, it looked as if a tight finish would play out.

In the end it was anything but tight.

Souths was back in front within the space of 60 seconds and from there rolled on to end the bid of the minor premiership-winning Saints.

“That’s what broke their back. They thought they were back in the game, it was close, it could have gone either way,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.

“But Bryce Hitchcock did a great dive to score that goal and that put them on the back foot and gave us momentum. As soon as the boys got that momentum, they lifted and lifted and lifted.”

Naturally disappointed to have fallen short of a grand final appearance, Pat’s coach Shane Conroy felt the final scoreline was not a true indication of the match.

“We got it back to 1-1 and we had our opportunities, but they got one against the run of play then Luke [Thorncraft] got hit and it went from there,” he said.

“I don’t think the score did the game justice. When it got to 3-1 we changed our structure and pushed a few guys higher and they got us on the counter a couple of times.

“I think Nick McEwan was probably the difference, when they moved him up front he caused us problems and showed his quality, that’s why he’s in the AHL [Australian Hockey League] squad.”

Having taken the first grand final qualifier against Lithgow Panthers all the way to a penalty shoot-out, St Pat’s enjoyed the first real chance of Saturday’s preliminary final.

The blue and whites earned a penalty corner on 12 minutes, but the attempt went high and wide. 

After that it was Souths who enjoyed a majority of the chances and had the Saints scrambling in defence.

That showed as the two blues went on to put St Pat’s to the sword.

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