Hockey: Black Sticks miss their chances

By Andrew Alderson

Australia 6
New Zealand 2

The three Australian goals at the end of the first half reverberated off the goalbox backboard as painfully as the cries of "Ozzie, ozzie, ozzie, oi, oi, oi" from the crowd.

The New Zealand men's hockey team battled bravely for the first 25 minutes against the world champions in their Commonwealth Games semi-final but it was for little reward as a trio of shots rattled past goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex in the space of six minutes.

Australia went on to win 6-2, backing up off the 9-1 score they had put up against the Black Sticks in the opening round of the Champion's Trophy earlier this year. Captain Phil Burrows reflected on another transtasman international where crucial opportunities slipped away.

"We knew we wouldn't create many - we never do - but we had a good couple of chances in the first 10-15 minutes. They didn't go in the net when they needed to. We let a couple of softish goals in too."

Burrows was furious a goal wasn't awarded in the 61st minute which would have pegged the score back to 4-3. He struck it from outside the circle but thought it had deflected off an Australian into the goal. The umpire argued it had gone above knee height.

"I want to see a replay of that," Burrows said. "It was below shin pad height. The umpire was giving me a hard time today and he needs to improve."

Coach Shane McLeod was less certain. "From the coach's box the ball looked slightly raised. Some days those goals are awarded, like when Australia do it, and sometimes they aren't, like when we do it.

"It's a shame because the momentum of a game can change in the space of three or four minutes. We hoped the Indian hockey gods might've been smiling."

McLeod said the oppressive heat didn't help, with the match starting in mid-30C temperatures at 11am Indian time.

"It changes the nature of the game. It becomes an endurance event rather than rewarding speed and power. You're just happy to get through 70 minutes. Compare that to the women's semi-final win [over South Africa] played later in the evening with good crowds.

"[Having matches in the middle of the day] is not the best planning."

Burrows agreed. "Sometimes it is not the skill that wins the game but whoever works hardest in the heat."

The captain said it also played a role when they rolled their substitutes.

"There was a bit of confusion out there sometimes as to who was playing where but you've just got to sort that out as quick as you can. You've got to be tactical - you can't sub when the ball is in a stupid position and give them easy ball."

- NZ Herald

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