WP came back from a 2-0 deficit, then a 3-1 half-time deficit, to draw level with 19 minutes left before running in three goals in the fourth and final chukka for a deserved 6-3 victory.
Two penalty corner strikes by Blues captain Tim Guise-Brown, the top IPT goalscorer, put the fired-up Pretoria lads into a shock 2-0 lead after just nine minutes. The opening goal, in the third minute of the final, was the first WP had conceded in just over four hours’ playing time.
Stephen Cant, so strong on the ball and so skilled with stick and ball in confined spaces, earned the first PC and the lively Tim Halle the second, both in and around the right-hand baseline.
During this time, Blues defender Michael Marki made an outstanding save on the goalline from a James Drummond PC bullet and then Guise-Brown did the same from WP captain Dan Bell. WP eventually pulled one back when Bili Ntuli steered home an accurate cross from Tulani Mnani.
The first chukka ended with Blues 2-1 up. Into the second chukka, it was the underdogs’ brave keeper Hendrik Kriek who made a double save from WP’s sixth PC. Blues’ PC defence had been out of the top drawer, the strong WP attack not being allowed to capitalise on six penalty corners in the opening 22 minutes.
Both sides had excellent opportunities from open play to add to the scoresheet and the half-time whistle reflected the score unchanged with Blues still 2-1 up. Cant earned Blues a penalty stroke two minutes after the re-start and Guise-Brown netted his hat-trick goal from the spot.
At 3-1 after 32 minutes, Blues were just 28 minutes’ playing time away from creating a massive upset, but WP were too good a side not to come back and they were awarded a penalty stroke after their eighth PC. Bell made no error and there was now only one goal in it after 35 minutes.
WP piled on the pressure and in the 41st minute Alex Stewart was adjudged to have been interfered with, which brought yet another penalty corner for the favourites and Ntuli, coming in from the right, deflected home Bell’s disguised shot/pass with aplomb. It had taken WP 41 minutes to draw level, which is great credit to Blues.
The fourth chukka saw WP in rampant mood, adding three goals without reply to run out 6-3 winners. Blues played into their hands somewhat by continually attacking down the left, when it had been the right flank that had brought reward. Cant was served far less ball and WP revelled, just as they did in their relentless march through the Pool stage of IPT.
WP took the lead for the first time in the final after 47 minutes when Ryan Crowe scored a goal that the Blues team hotly disputed. In the 53rd minute Jordan Turnbull’s skilful finish put WP 5-3 up and Ntuli delivered the 6-3 knockout punch four minutes from the end (56th) when he intercepted a ball on halfway and effected a one-two with Drummond before sliding the ball home.
(1/2) Western Province 6 Northern Blues 3
(3/4) Southern Gauteng 3 WP Peninsula 2
(5/6) KZN Coastal Raiders 4 Free State 1
(7/8) KZN Inland 6 North West 1
(9/10) Eastern Province 2 South Gauteng Witsies 1.
Most Valuable Player & MV Defender of IPT: Dan Bell (WP).
MV Forward: Bili Ntuli (WP).
MV Midfielder: Ryan Julius & Matt de Souza (WP).
MV Goalkeeper: Siya Nolutshungu (KZN Coastal Raiders
Top Goalscorer (9): Tim Guise-Brown (Northern Blues).