THE national men's hockey team did not even come close to defending their Borneo Games crown.
Falling 2-1 to Sabah in the last match of the tournament yesterday, they finished the tournament at the National Hockey Stadium at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex with bronze but that should be of little consolation since there were only three teams competing.
Despite being held to a 2-2 draw against Sabah on Wednesday, Sarawak's 4-2 win over Brunei on Tuesday was enough for them to win the title.
Brunei had to beat Sabah if they wanted to have any chance of finishing with silver, but they failed to convert their time on the ball into chances, and the few chances they created were not capitalised.
"We did everything right, we just did not have finishing," said national hockey coach Zulkiflee Zainal after the match.
"The final touch was not there. Like I said before this game, the team that commit the least number of mistakes would win," he added.
A scrappy goal by Shahry Ahmadin six minutes before the break gave the visitors a 1-0 lead, and though Brunei equalised five minutes into the second half through Muhammad Hafizi Hashim, a goal by Fredee Jaulis two minutes from time broke the hosts' hearts.
Md Halim Mustaffa was caught out of his line and a goal-mouth scramble ensued, with Shahry scoring despite the goalkeeper hurling himself at the ball.
A penalty-corner two minutes from the break saw vice-captain Hj Andi Ahmad Matarsat unleash a shot which looked destined for the top-left corner, but Sabah goalkeeper Jayson Gosiun saved well.
The hosts had another good chance from a penalty-corner 30 seconds later but Gosiun was not to be beaten, dealing well with a second attempt from Muhammad Zikri Jauhari.
Zulkiflee had been emphasising the need to control the tempo, and his boys did exactly that in the 40th minute when they scored on a counter-attack.
Though they initially lost the ball, influential midfielder Mohammad Ezrith Hj Edin won it back and fed it to inside the scoring area.
Gosiun handled the first shot but could do nothing about Muhammad Hafizi's shot.
The injured striker, who played despite twisting his right ankle on Sunday, looked noticeably in pain throughout the match and had to be stretchered off the field in the dying seconds.
Brunei were unable to make the most of their numerical advantage when Jaulis was sent to the bench for two minutes after a foul in the 51st minute, though Muhammad Hafizi did have a shot on goal which was saved once Jaulis was back on the field.
Ak Hj Muhd Firdaus had a shot which sailed inches over the bar in the last few minutes, and Brunei were made to pay when Jaulis scored after receiving a pass on the right from Herik Ahmad Syam.
Despite the win, Sabah's coach seemed unhappy that his team could not finish better.
"We played well and I think it was a balanced game," said Dedi Saputra.
"But I was aiming for a 3-0 win so we could have won gold, so I am sad it did not work out that way," said Dedi, adding that the team only practised for two weeks before the tournament.
The national women's team also finished with bronze after losing their first match 3-0 to Sabah on Monday and falling 4-0 to Sarawak on Friday.
The Sarawak women made it a hat-trick of titles in the tournament after beating Sabah 5-2 on Wednesday.
They captured the inaugural Games in Sabah in 2005 and made it a double when they hosted the competition in 2007.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports DP Hj Jemat Hj Ampal presented the medals after the match.
Courtesy from Brunei Times