Hockey: US and South Africa find Scots underdogs refuse to play dead

Gordon Shepherd's Scotland side made a mockery of the international rankings by beating the United States 3-1 in the second pool match of the women's Champions Challenge in Dublin yesterday.

The Scots, a modest 21st in the world, are still unbeaten in this prestigious event after drawing 2-2 with South Africa, seeded 12th, on Saturday and seeing off the 13th-placed US yesterday.

Starting the tournament with the wooden spoon predicted, Shepherd's charges have surpassed themselves and now lie second in the pool on goal difference from the Springboks, who whipped Japan 5-1 in the other match.

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A lone piper heralded Kat Cameron's 50th cap before the start of the game, but the party went suddenly sour when Katy O'Donnell put the US ahead in a counter-attack, as she swept the ball past an exposed Amy Gibson in the Scotland goal.

However, within a minute the Scots were level as Nikki Kidd fired her shot into the middle of the goal at the second penalty corner. Although the Americans perhaps shaded the possession, there were few clear-cut chances and the sides were tied 1-1 at the interval.

The Scots shocked their more fancied opponents at the restart. After Laura Bartlett missed a half chance, Vikki Bunce drove into the circle, released the ball to Sam Judge, who fired the ball past the American keeper to put the Scots 2-1 up.

An almighty let-off followed as Michelle Vittesse rounded Gibson and inexplicably sent the ball wide of an open goal.

Shepherd maintained that a solid defensive platform was the main strength of his squad, and this was now severely tested by the Americans desperate to level, but Gibson and her colleagues managed to stave off five penalty corner chances and other attacking sorties.

Almost inevitably, the Scots struck on a counter-attack. With three minutes left, Ali Bell won a penalty corner. Kidd's effort struck the right hand post, and Bell followed up to score from the rebound to kill off the contest.

In the opening game on Saturday, favourites South Africa were in a state of shock as the Scots underdogs sailed into a two-goal lead by the interval.

Laura Bartlett set up the chance for Louise Baxter to fire home a vicious low shot from the top of the circle. The Springboks had barely recovered when Scotland were awarded an overtime penalty corner and Kidd made it two, striking to the keeper's left.

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After the interval, Pietie Coetzee pulled one back, then Illse Davids made it 2-2 with ten minutes left.

Scots keeper Abi Walker became the heroine of the final five minutes with a series of saves to frustrate the South Africans' attempt to steal all three points at the death.

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, Scotland's men had to settle for second place to Ireland in the Celtic Cup despite a 6-4 win over France in the final match yesterday.

After enetring the interval at 1-1 the Scots switched off, allowing the French a 3-1 lead.However, Michael Christie scored twice with goals from Alan Forsyth, Chris Grassick and Fergus Dunn.

On Saturday, the Scots defeated Wales 3-1, the goals coming from Kenny Bain, Adam McKenzie and Dan Coultas.

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