[img_assist|nid=3369|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=80|height=100]Three goals in the first 12 minutes set world number four Great Britain up for a 6-0 win over world number 12 South Africa in the unofficial women’s hockey Test match at Bisham Abbey Monday.
A Crista Cullen penalty corner was followed by an Alex Danson field goal before Cullen made it 3-0 with GB’s second PC. Near the end of the half, Danson set up Sarah Thomas for a tap-in at the far post.
Turning around 4-0 down, SA had a much better second half with a number of good opportunities. But it was GB who found the net via a razor-sharp Danson goal before Cullen completed her hat-trick with a well-struck shot off a PC rebound.
SA were up against it from the outset with captain Marsha Marescia (ankle) and Jen Wilson (leg) being rested, Kathleen Taylor not 100% and Kate Woods and Shelley Russell coming straight to the ground after flying from SA to London.
Apart from Georgie Twigg (tight hamstring) the Brits were at full strength with the return of the outstanding Danson and Cullen, as well as captain Kate Walsh, making a marked difference to the side beaten 3-1 by SA at the Investec London Cup a month ago.
Playing high-octane hockey with impressive ball speed and switching of play, GB used the full length and width of the field with high-hanging, lateral-running strikers complemented by defenders releasing the ball from deep, ensuring valuable space for the midfielders to set up attacks.
It wasn’t easy for SA to break out of defence in the first half although world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee (241 goals in 245 Tests) did have a PC saved by keeper Beth Storry and the pacy Bernie Coston and Russell had their moments down the left wing.
The second half saw SA earn three penalty corners to GB’s one to win the PC match count 4-3 while former junior sprint champion Sulette Damons made inroads down the left wing and got in goal shots. Of SA’s three PCs, Coetzee and Woods were on target but Storry was up for the challenge.
Apart from the two goals, GB had further opportunities in the second half but they encountered a much-improved SA, which makes Tuesday’s second match an enticing prospect.