THEY came close to ending a 10-year men’s Premier League Hockey title drought on Saturday, but in the end Souths was once more left to feel the pain of a grand final defeat at the hands of Lithgow Panthers.
It came down to a penalty shoot-out and it was hosts Panthers who emerged with a 3-1 result.
While Panthers celebrated their 11th men’s title, Souths’ players – who had enjoyed a 2-0 advantage at half-time – were left to think what could have been.
“To come down to that – one-on-ones – you can toss a coin for who can and who can’t score off those,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.
“It is a terrible way to lose, but look, it was a great game.
“We ran with them better than what we’d done in any other game this year, so I’m proud of them.”
Before the dramatic finale, Souths made a strong start to the match.
Nathan Burke opened scoring after just three minutes when he slotted home on the left post.
At the 10 minute mark Souths doubled its advantage off a penalty corner play, Nick McEwen deflecting Jono Cole’s effort from the top of the circle into the net.
Panthers did have its chances in the first half – the best coming with just under 30 minutes gone as Souths goalkeeper knocked the ball off Taylor Dolbel’s stick in a one-on-one.
Souths also survived a Panthers penalty corner to go to the break ahead 2-0.
However, Panthers came out in the second half with renewed determination.
Nic Milne, fresh from winning gold at the Australian Country Championships, led the comeback as he not only made penetrating runs through the midfield, but was brilliant on penalty corner plays.
He opened scoring for Panthers with 27 minutes left, then bagged a pair from penalty corners to give the hosts a 3-2 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining, Souths needed to lift. They did.
With 2.27 left on the clock, Daniel Carter dived full length to connect with a McEwen cross to lock it up.
That was how it stayed until the full-time siren and through the 14 minutes of golden-goal extra-time.
It saw the need for a penalty shoot-out and just as they had done in the major semi-final against St Pat’s a fortnight earlier, Panthers held their nerve.
Matt Johnson found the mark for Souths, but Cole, McEwen and Andy Cranston were shut down by Panthers goalkeeper Logan Hunter.
Brandon Horner, Dolbel and Milne scored for Panthers to hand their side victory.