England win Commonwealth hockey bronze after fighting back to beat South Africa

England secured men’s hockey bronze at the Commonwealth Games by beating South Africa 6-3 in a remarkable contest at the University of Birmingham.

South Africa twice led in the second quarter, but goals from Rhys Smith, Liam Ansell, Sam Ward, Zach Wallace, as well as a Phil Roper double, provided some reward after semi-final despair against Australia.

Matthew Guise-Brown, Mustapha Cassiem and Nqobile Ntuli were on target for the visitors who ran out of steam in the final two quarters.

Skipper Wallace said: “Our aim going into the tournament was to win a gold medal and that’s the direction our group wants to go.

“But we’ve picked ourselves up from the other night and to get a win like that was really good.

“There was a Commonwealth Games medal in store and we’re delighted to get it.

“Six months ago we had no coach and we were a demotivated group after Tokyo with the way things went in the quarter-finals.

“But I think there’s a lot of excitement building around English hockey, both men’s and women’s, and we’re definitely on the right track towards Paris (Olympics 2024).”

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - Day Eleven

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Day Eleven

England captain Zach Wallace (top) celebrates after scoring the last goal in the 6-3 bronze medal match win over South Africa (Martin Rickett/PA)

Both sides had early chances with England goalkeeper Oliver Payne denying Ntuli and Keenan Horne, while Nicholas Bandurak and David Condon went close for the hosts.

But there was little sign of the chaos that was to come with six goals scored in the second quarter.

Ntuli’s running power caused problems for England and Guise-Brown gave South Africa the lead from a penalty corner aimed high into the net.

England responded immediately when Smith squeezed his shot under the body of goalkeeper Gowan Jones.

But South Africa were back in front when Horne got to the touchline and Ryan Julius set up Cassiem’s ​​sweet finish.

Again, England responded immediately as Ansell created space for himself with some clever stickwork before finding the bottom corner of the goal with a firm strike.

Ward, wearing his usual face mask after suffering a horrific head injury in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, put England ahead for the first time from a penalty corner.

However, parity was restored seconds before the interval when England broke away and Ntuli pounced from close range.

The third quarter was a far more sedate affair until a powerful Condon burst left South African defenders in his wake, although England were unable to end it with a goal.

Payne saved from Julius at his near post and England were back in front when Roper ended a goalmouth scramble by smashing a loose ball that had bounced up in front of him.

Chris Griffiths missed a gilt-edged chance to extend the lead but Roper claimed his sixth goal of the Games from inches after Ward’s shot had splashed past Jones.

South Africa opted to withdraw Jones and play an extra outfielder in the final five minutes, but the ploy backfired as a Wallace wrapped up victory and added bronze to the gold won by England’s women on Sunday.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - Day Eleven

Liam Ansell celebrates scoring England’s second goal against South Africa (Martin Rickett/PA)

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