SOCLOSE: The Grafton Under-17 representative hockey team beaten in the final at the State titles.
SOCLOSE: The Grafton Under-17 representative hockey team beaten in the final at the State titles.

Close call for underdogs



THE Grafton Under-17 men's hockey team defied predictions to fight its way into the final of the NSW titles at Moorebank.

The boys forced their way past a number of well-fancied sides on their way to a showdown with the tough Lithgow outfit on Sunday.

In the first game Grafton played its 'get out of jail' card against New England.

Although in control of the game, New England scored a blinder from a break away.

Grafton hit back in the second half, scoring twice when Josh Duff netted a rebound off the keeper and Mathew Barton cracked one home from the top of the circle.

Grafton were in total control of the match until a back pass missed its mark and New England swooped to equalise with three minutes remaining.

Grafton rushed forward and won a penalty corner, which Troy Urquhart converted to snatch victory.

The second match was against Sydney No3. Grafton started in great style and were up 2-0 after 10 minutes thanks to an incredible reverse stick strike by Tim Conyard and a penalty corner by Urquhart.

Sydney had the chance to claw one back late in the first half when they were awarded a penalty stroke, but Slade Blandford made a great save.

Sydney attacked throughout the second half, but outstanding defence by Brendan Purser, Adam Richey and Dean Taylor ensured that the score remained 2-1.

The final pool match was against the tough Lithgow side who were coming off a 10-3 win the previous night. In a very physical and exciting game, both sides had chances, but were unable to score.

Ricky Johnson, Quentin Pursey and Urquhart had outstanding games in both attack and defence.

This left Grafton in second place in their pool on goal difference and a semi-final berth against the Sydney No2 side on Saturday.

In front of a vocal Sydney crowd the Grafton side absorbed tremendous pressure early in the first half.

After the break Grafton created chances with Drew Cooper and Zeb Dougherty running the ball into the forward line. Urquhart broke the deadlock midway through the second stanza after a decisive strike in a crowded circle.

The final was an outstanding game of hockey with both sides defending solidly and counter attacking at every opportunity.

Rhys Henwood had a great game running the ball out of attack and allowing Nick Whitton and Aaron Watts to apply pressure in the forward line.

It was Lithgow, however, who finally broke through in the second half to score what was to be the only goal of the match.



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