The Black Sticks Men have defeated Poland 8-3 to progress unbeaten into the quarter finals at the Pahang Champions Challenge 1 being played at Kuantan, Malaysia as Pool A toppers, while Korea topped Pool B.
The Black Sticks now face a quarter final clash against hosts Malaysia, who finished last in Pool B, at 14:45 local time (18:45 NZ Time) on Thursday. The other quarter final matches are Ireland vs France, Korea vs Japan and Canada vs Poland on the same day.
With previous wins over Ireland (2-1) and Japan (6-1), the result over Poland saw the Kiwis finish atop Pool A with three wins from three games.
Striker Simon Child earned himself man of the match honours against Poland thanks to a hat-trick of goals with two field goals and one penalty corner conversion.
The Black Sticks were in control from the opening whistle against a tired Polish side, and led 4-0 at halftime with goals from Child, Stephen Jenness and a double from Andy Hayward.
New Zealand poured on another four goals in the second half thanks to another two strikes from Child, Blair Hilton and Hugo Inglis.
Head coach Colin Batch said it was important to go into a tough quarter final game against Malaysia with some momentum. “It was a good performance from the team. We led 8-0 until late in the game and lost a bit of concentration but on the whole a good effort. Malaysia will be tough opponent, they have been playing below their normal level at this tournament but have shown signs of improvement. They won their last game but finished bottom of their pool so they will be dangerous. They are a World Cup team so that is good preparation for us as well,” he said.
In the other match of Pool A on the day between Ireland and Japan, after a quiet affair in the first half where teams cancelled each other out with little goal scoring opportunity it was all drama in the second half – where Ireland’s net keeper David Harte was called into action to save a penalty stroke in the 55th minute which would have given the Japanese a 1-0 lead but Harte gets his stick to deflect Kei Kawakami’s shot to keep the sides at nil all.
Despite securing three penalty corners it was Alan Sothern’s open play skill that netted Ireland the only goal of the day in the 66th minute. Japan fought to the end with Ippei Fujimoto almost causing an Irish upset in the last minute of the match but world class keeper David Harte was once again in impressive form keeping the sheet clean and Ireland closed out the match with an important 1-0 win.
Commenting Coach Fulton was pleased his team secured the three points. “I am very proud of the team’s performance, we stuck to the game plan in what was a tough match, we created important chances and in the end we were able to execute to secure what was an important goal. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked but we are a young team up front and this achieves our goal of finishing in the top 3 in the pool stages”
Fulton went on to commend keeper Harte “David Harte got man of the match, he wasn’t overly busy during the match but the two saves he had to make were huge including a penalty stroke.”