Hitchin at home, Flags SF - 4 Feb 2006

Hitchin are riding high at the top of the Premier League with their only defeat being at the hands of Purley, and their other meeting this season going to Hitchin, so this Flags semi-final was set up to be a thrilling encounter. It looked like the rest of the lacrosse community thought so too, as not only did both sides bring plenty of supporters, there were also quite a few neutrals on the sidelines.

Both sides started brightly, with some fast and skilful lacrosse, and both teams had hit the pipes before Purley took the early lead. Hitchin came back with a 3 goal run to take it to 1-3, but the home side pulled their way back into the game to bring the quarter time score to 3-3. The second quarter for Purley was the Nigel Tasko show - with two solo goals, and one on man-up where slick passing gave him an open shot. Purley led by the odd goal through most of the quarter, but Hitchin were always in touch, and levelled the game just before the half at 6-6.

Missed shots from both teams, and good work between the posts from both 'keepers kept the score low in the third quarter. Hitchin had the majority of possession, helped by Purley who gave the ball away far too frequently with silly mistakes, but it was Purley who got the only goal of the quarter to take a narrow 7-6 lead. To start the final quarter Purley were again guilty of not looking after the ball, which allowed Hitchin about 5 minutes of solid offense, but the Purley defence held firm aided by some fine stops by Paul Terry, and on almost the first occaision they did manage to get the ball up the field the Purley fast break was on song to allow Dave Arnot to give Purley a two goal lead. Hitchin then pulled back to within one goal, but a well worked goal saw Dave Arnot feed Nigel Tasko to restore the two goal advantage.

This lead looked like it might be enough for the home side, but Hitchin made it an interesting finale as they again pulled back to 9-8 with just over two minutes left on the clock. Purley also decided to make it more interesting for themselves, as with under a minute to go rather than keep the ball they tried a shot, which not only resulted in Hitchin possession but Purley also committed a technical foul to put them man down. But the Purley defence held firm, and Matt Payne intercepted the ball in the middle of the zone, and hurled the ball into attack – and Purley held onto the ball as the seconds ran out. Final score 9-8.

Special mention must go to Luke Smith, who managed to make it to the game despite the vagaries of the British transport system. With all trains cancelled from Guildford it took him 4 hours to make it to the game, but he perservered and made it midway through the second quarter - which definately helped the Purley face-off.

Goals: Nigel Tasko 4, Dave Arnot 2, Jesse O'Hanley 1, Jamie Tasko 1, Matt Payne 1

Photos by Steve Cluney.