England secured bronze for men’s hockey at the Commonwealth Games by beating South Africa 6-3 in a remarkable game at the University of Birmingham.
South Africa led twice in the second quarter, but goals from Rhys Smith, Liam Ansell, Sam Ward, Zach Wallace and a double from Phil Roper provided some reward after desperation in the semi-final against Australia.
Matthew Guise-Brown, Mustapha Cassiem and Nqobile Ntuli were on target for visitors who have run out of steam in the last two quarters.
Skipper Wallace said: Our goal going into the tournament was to win a gold medal and that’s the direction our group wants to go.
But we picked ourselves up from last night and to get a win like that was really good.
A Commonwealth Games medal was on the line and we were thrilled to get it.
Six months ago we had no coach and we were a demotivated group after Tokyo as it was in the quarter finals.
But I think there is a huge excitement around English hockey, both for men and women, and we are definitely on the right track towards Paris (2024 Olympics).
England captain Zach Wallace (above) celebrates after scoring the last goal in the 6-3 victory over South Africa bronze medal match (Martin Rickett/PA)
Both teams had chances early on with England goalkeeper Oliver Payne denying Ntuli and Keenan Horne, while Nicholas Bandurak and David Condon came close for the hosts.
But there was little sign of the chaos that would come with six goals in the second quarter.
Ntulis’ running power caused problems in England and Guise-Brown gave South Africa the lead from a penalty corner high in the net.
England reacted immediately when Smith squeezed his shot under the body of goalkeeper Gowan Jones.
But South Africa was back in the lead as Horne got to the byline and set up Ryan Julius Cassiem’s adorable finish.
Again England responded immediately as Ansell created space for himself with some clever stick work before finding the bottom corner of the goal with a solid charge.
Ward, who wore his usual face mask after sustaining a horrific head injury while qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, gave England the lead for the first time from a penalty corner.
However, parity was restored seconds before half time when England eliminated and Ntuli jumped up from close range.
The third quarter was a much calmer affair until a powerful outburst from Condon left the South African defenders in his wake, although England were unable to finish it off with a goal.
Payne saved from Julius on his near post and England were back in front when Roper ended a goal-mouth fight by hitting home a loose ball that had bounced up in front of him.
Chris Griffiths missed a golden opportunity to extend the lead, but Roper claimed his sixth goal of the Games from inches after Ward’s shot went past Jones.
South Africa opted to withdraw Jones and play an extra outfielder for the final five minutes, but the trick backfired when Wallace took the win and added bronze to the gold won by the England women on Sunday.
Australia maintained its dominance in men’s hockey by beating India 7-0 in a one-sided final.
Nathan Ephraums and Jacob Anderson both scored twice with Blake Govers, Flynn Ogilvie and Tom Wickham also on the scoresheet, and Australia has now won all seven men’s titles since hockey was included in the Commonwealth Games.
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