South United showed why they were minor premiers on Sunday as they doused Flames in clinical and emphatic fashion.
The 6-nil scoreline reflected what was a dominant performance, Souths playing like, as coach Andrew Davy remarked afterwards, a “well-drilled unit” to secure the first spot in the grand final.
“The girls can be very proud of the way they played today,” Davy said.
“It’s a great achievement to get to a grand final second year back in (first grade).”
He acknowledged Flames were understrength, but even at full strength Souths would have been hard to beat.
“Today they played the style of hockey we’ve been looking for them to play for most of the season,” Davy said.
There have been patches where they have throughout the season but they were more consistent with it on Sunday.
Vanessa Harwood picked up the rebound off a penalty corner to put Souths up 1-nil.
Brit Parker doubled their advantage, wit the first of her hat-trick, with just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half from a lay-off to the right off a corner. Minutes later she had her second, the pressure from Souths’ relentless.
They attacked with precision, adhering to Davy’s instructions to let the ball do the work, and if they did lose possession worked hard to win it back. It was a constant struggle for Flames to clear the ball out of their half.
“I thought our press was excellent.
“That was a big thing for us getting our press right,” Davy said.
They put a lot of pressure on the ball.
He said they had also spoken about being proactive rather than reacting to the situation.
Jodi Ellis extended Souths’ lead to 4-nil at half-time with a determined effort. She was virtually on her knees when she slotted the goal after her first two shots were saved.
Captain Allison Billinghurst struck off a penalty corner with around 20 minutes to play before Kate Lane finished off a nice team goal, Harwood delivering a good cross to find Lane on the right poss.
As happy as he was with their attack, Davy was equally delighted with their defence.
“Defence is about attitude,” he said.
“You get the right attitude and it flows throughout the field.”
The defensive effort was led by Billinghurst and Nardie Pollock. Chelsea Thornton also made some good saves when she was called upon, while Lucy Frame had probably the best game Davy has seen her play.
Flames were without arguably their two best players. Kim Resch was tied up with the Group 4 league grand finals while Kate Ferguson, backing up after playing in North Tamworth’s ladies league tag loss to Kootingal, didn’t last long.
“She was clearly injured. She played for about three minutes but couldn’t move,” coach Barrie Pritchard said.
“The dynamics of the game changed dramatically for us when we lost those two.”
“(Kate) She is a massive, massive worker on our team. Those holes in the midfield, she shuts that down.”
“And we missed the firepower of Kim.”
That was compounded when Ash Allen was unable to return for the second half.
It was a haphazard performance. Whereas Souths were clinical and sharp with their passing game, Flames were clunky and struggled to connect, and turned over a lot of ball.
“Because we were defending too much we were disjointed in attack,” Pritchard said.
They also had no layers in attack, which made it easier for Souths to break the play down, and is something he spoke to them about at half-time.
Fortunately they will get another shot at making the grand final, and will take on Waratahs this coming Sunday.