Flames coach Barrie Pritchard lauded his sides competitive spirit after their marathon 100 minute battle with Waratahs in Sunday’s Tamworth women’s first grade preliminary final.
Two periods of golden goal extra-time couldn’t split the sides, the 1-all stalemate seeing Flames advance to the grand final as the higher placed side on the table.
It’s the second time in as many weeks Waratahs have been forced into extra-time but this time there was no golden strike.
Jess Thomas put them ahead in the shades of half-time but Jess Fleury equalised for Flames a minute into the second half, and the score remained unchanged through 34 minutes of regular time, 20 minutes of extra-time down to nine players a side and 10 minutes with only seven a side on the field.
Both sides had their opportunities during extra-time but were unable to convert them.
Pritchard conceded he thought they might have been a bit vulnerable in extra-time against a younger Waratahs outfit.
“I’m still amazed that we matched it for intensity for two lots of extra-time,” he said.
“To be honest I thought when it went to seven their young legs would run over the top of us.”
“But that competitiveness came out in some of our players and they hung in there.”
The midfield was where they really had to match them, being where Waratahs’ strength was, and Naomi Spark, Kate Ferguson and Kim Resch were outstanding there.
It was a good battle there all game, neither side really being able to get on top.
Flames knew going into extra-time that a draw would be enough for them to go through, and played a territory game especially in that second period.
“We knew we didn’t have to score but we still needed to attack,” Pritchard said.
“We just had to find the spaces and roll the ball down.”
They just put it into the corners and made Waratahs work it out of their own end.
Waratahs coach Josh Worpel couldn’t fault his sides effort.
“To play 100 minutes of hockey is a big ask and everyone put in,” he said.
He said they had a lot of chances early in the first period of extra-time but after that struggled to get the ball out of their half.
The whole game was a bit like that.
“It was very much back and forth. Both teams created a lot of chances,” Worpel said.
“I thought we defended really well. We were just unlucky with that goal.”
It came from “a little bit of miss-communication”.
Their goal similarly came from a bit of a mix-up coming out of defence.
Pritchard thought they played a lot better in the second half.
“We put a bit more pressure on their defence,” he said.
Still battling an injury Ferguson was fantastic all game for them while Heidi Schimann had the best game Pritchard has seen her play in goals.
“She was really quite aggressive and made a lot of saves,” he said.
In front of her Mel Allen and Helena Williamson were strong in defence.
Pritchard also commended umpires Sarah Willis and Gabbi D’Ambros.
He thought they did a great job under huge pressure with two periods of extra-time.
Flames now face South United, who they went down to 6-nil in the major semi-final, in the grand final.
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