The Black Sticks Men have come away with a 3-3 draw against hosts Netherlands in their opening game at the World League Semi-Final at Rotterdam in this morning (NZ time).
After Netherlands scored first, the Black Sticks netted three unanswered goals to go up 3-1 before the Dutch responded late in the second half to salvage a draw.
Hugo Inglis had an outstanding game up front and scored a double with Jacob Smith knocking in New Zealand’s third. Phil Burrows was also a stand-out player for the Kiwis, setting up several scoring opportunities.
The draw sees both sides take away one point each, with Ireland and India also on one point in Pool B after drawing 4-4 earlier in the day.
Black Sticks head coach Colin Batch said while it would have been great to hold on for the win, to come away with a draw against the world’s number three side and London 2012 silver medallists was a pleasing start.
“It was a good result for us and shows that we are continuing to improve. We’ve had a tough time with injuries but the way the guys prepared for the match is a real credit to them,” Batch said.
“I thought there were several players who played their best game for New Zealand today so overall it was an outstanding effort.
“Having said that it is just one game in the tournament and we will need to go away now and prepare for what will be a tough game against Ireland who also had a good game today.”
Things started Netherland’s way with the Black Sticks reduced to 10 men just seconds into the game with a yellow card given to Stephen Jenness for a diving back tackle.
And while the host nation enjoyed a large amount of possession in the first half, the Black Sticks scrambled well on defence and held structure in the midfield.
The Dutch were first to score in the 19th minute thanks to a penalty stroke for a shot at goal that struck Dean Couzins in shoulder as the last line of defence. Jeroen Hertzberger drove the stroke into the left corner past goalkeeper Hamish McGregor.
Just one minute later the Black Sticks delivered an equaliser with Burrows driving a ball into the circle and Inglis putting in a sprawling dive on the reverse stick to deflect the ball into goal.
Just out from halftime it was the combo of Burrows and Inglis who featured again, this time Burrows catching Netherlands off-guard with a quick free hit into the circle which Inglis again guided into goal.
McGregor played well throughout the game in goal, and came to the fore in the 42nd minute when Netherlands won the first penalty corner of the match. Hertzberger put a great shot on goal but McGregor put on an equally terrific right footed save.
Capital striker Smith slapped in New Zealand’s third goal in the 46th minute with the Black Sticks on track for an upset win.
But Netherlands weren’t done there, and scored two more goals in a frenetic final 10 minutes.
The Black Sticks Men play their second pool game against Ireland on Saturday night at 7:30pm (NZ time), which will be broadcast live on SKY Sport 3.
The top three men’s and women’s teams from the World League Semi-Final automatically qualify for the 2014 Hockey World Cup, although it is possible to earn qualification at the tournament with a lower ranking. New Zealand can still qualify in other ways as well, with the next opportunity coming at the Oceania Cup in Taranaki this October.
Black Sticks 3: (Hugo Inglis 2, Jacob Smith)
Netherlands 3: (Jeroen Hertzberger 2, Valentin Verga)
Halftime: Black Sticks 2-1