HIS coach labelled him sensational, his rival captain labelled him too good and given Brandon Horner's hat-trick helped Lithgow Storm to a 4-2 victory in the men's Central West Premier League Hockey grand final it was praise he deserved.
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Storm was two goals down after 11 minutes against St Pat's in Saturday's decider at Bob Roach Field, but Horner sparked the comeback.
First he scored off a penalty corner. Then he scored a brilliant field goal. Then Horner found the mark off a penalty corner again.
The star striker turned a two goal deficit into a lead and from there Storm went on to make it back-to-back premierships.
"You've got to respect his game, he's good off short corners and he can certainly finish one-on-one," St Pat's co-captain Riley Hanrahan said.
"They were playing to him with overheads and long balls and we couldn't shut him out, he was just too good for us."
Storm coach Dave Marshall echoed that praise.
"He was just sensational today," he said. "Him and Joe Radburn at the back did really well for us.
"It was a great comeback in a grand final, coming back from two goals down and winning that 4-2.
"I'm proud of the boys, Pat's have been a great squad all year and were the first team through, but I was confident today with the squad we had that we could do it."
As Marshall indicated, the Saints were the first to qualify for Saturday's grand final. They'd only lost to Storm once and were on a 10-game winning streak.
But Storm were the defending premiers and prior to that, many of its players had been involved in at least one of the 11 Lithgow Panthers premierships.
It meant they kept their composure after Pat's brilliant start.
"They sort of stretched us out in that first quarter, they played three up front, they were playing a long ball and isolating us at the back which worked well for them I thought, they sort of bypassed our midfield," Marshall said.
"But we told out blokes to just be patient and we started to get some turnovers, we started to cut off their long ball.
"The third quarter we went a bit defensive I thought, but in that fourth quarter we played well again."
It was experienced Saint Shane Conroy who struck first in the decider, hitting the target from a penalty corner in the second minute.
At the 11 minute mark, once more from a penalty corner play, the Saints struck again, this time via Lachie Howard.
However, two minutes later Storm earned a penalty corner of its own and Horner bagged his first of the match.
At quarter-time the Saints still led 2-1, but in the 15 minutes that followed momentum swung in favour of Storm.
The visitors earned three penalty corners in the space of two minutes early in the quarter, Conroy making a brilliant trap to deny Nathan Mitchell while Saints goalkeeper Taylor Newton made excellent blocks on the others.
But in the 22nd minute of the match Horner could not be denied.
A quick clearance released him, he used his speed to get a look on goal despite the attention of two Saints defenders, then powered his shot into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Horner then put Storm into the lead when his power penalty corner strike effort found that same left corner.
That made it 3-2 at half-time and after the break the chances continued to come down both ends.
Newton and Cody Sherman came up with some big defensive plays to keep the Saints in reach, the goalkeeper's effort including turning away a Horner tomahawk.
Down the other end of the field Lithgow goalkeeper Logan Hunter was being tested too.
Four minutes into the final quarter he made a one-on-one save against Hanrahan, then denied the Saints' skipper from a penalty corner soon after.
The Saints pressed hard to try and find an equaliser, but with two minutes left on the clock Storm dealt them the death blow.
A Nic Milne drag flick from a penalty corner found a way past the Saints to put the final score at 4-2.
"We got those two goals early, two short corners which we've been good at all year and that set the tone for us," Hanrahan said.
"But I haven't thought too much about what happened after that, we just really fell away and they killed us up front.
"We always back ourselves, 100 percent, right up until they scored that goal with two left. But even then the boys were still fighting, that's just Pat's really.
"It hurts to be up and then go down 4-2, we just didn't respond did we?"
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