Roper powers England men to hockey bronze at Commonwealth Games

England put their semi-final defeat to Australia behind them to claim bronze
England put their semi-final defeat to Australia behind them to claim bronze

Chester’s Phil Roper powered England to Commonwealth hockey bronze with a barnstorming 6-3 win over South Africa, writes Sportsbeat's Tom Harle.

Paul Revington’s young side bounced back from a crushing 3-2 semi-final defeat to Australia with a consummate attacking display to reach the podium.

England came back from behind twice to secure a third successive bronze medal at the friendly Games.

Skipper Zach Wallace said: “Going into the tournament we wanted the gold but I’m thrilled with bronze.

“The performance wasn’t amazing but we got over the line pretty comfortably in the end and I’m absolutely delighted.”

It capped a brilliant 24 hours for English hockey that saw the women’s team take their first-ever Commonwealth title with a 2-1 win over Australia.

Wallace said: “It definitely inspired us. We were all down watching and cheering them on - we’re very close with the girls group - and we were absolutely buzzing for them.

“At the same time, we don’t want to let them get too many up on us! We want to put ourselves in the mix for medals as well.”

There were a flurry of chances at the end of the first quarter as marksman Nick Bandurak deflected just wide and at the other end Ollie Payne made a fine double reaction save.

The goals started flowing and five were scored in just seven second-quarter minutes.

South Africa’s Matt Guise-Brown ripped a drag flick into the roof of the net and Rhys Smith soon cancelled it out from close range.

Mustapha Cassiem pounced on hesitation in the home defence to restore the visitors lead but England came roaring back.

A clinical finish from Liam Ansell, his third goal of the Games, drew them level and then Sam Ward dragged low into the left-hand corner to edge them ahead.

The lead didn’t last long as Nqobile Nutili deflected past Payne after a spell of South African pressure.

The third quarter was a tighter affair with both sides briefly going down to ten before Roper crashed a loose ball through bodies and in to restore England’s advantage.

That goal seemed to snap South Africa’s resolve and England dictated the second half, pulling further in front when Roper bundled home amid a goalmouth scramble.

Roper added a second on 50 minutes to take his tournament tally to eight and Wallace added further sheen to the scoreline with a late penalty stroke.

Wallace said: “Six months ago we didn’t have a coach and we were a demotivated group after Tokyo, we were pretty gutted to go out in the quarter-final.

“We’ve had so many injuries coming into this, Covid in the mix, boys coming back from injury, non-selection, illness.

“No-one would have noticed. That speaks volumes for the tenacity of the group.”

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