Hockey: Black Sticks lose extra-time thriller

By Kevin Norquay

Members of the Australia team celebrate after Ashleigh Nelson scored the equalising goal. Photo / Getty Images
Members of the Australia team celebrate after Ashleigh Nelson scored the equalising goal. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand have lost a cliffhanger in the cauldron, after pushing Australia to penalty strokes in the Commonwealth Games women's hockey final today.

New Zealand twice fought back from a goal down in furnace-like conditions, scoring their second to level the scores at 2-2 with just 45 seconds left only to then lose a penalty shootout 2-4 when Australia put four of their five attempts past goalkeeper Beth Jurgeleit.

Even in the shootout the Blacks Sticks refused to lie down, with Anita Punt and Kayla Sharland keeping their hopes alive under immense pressure after Australian Rachael Lynch saved from Katie Glynn first up, then Krystal Forgesson pushed the second stroke wide.

And so the gold medal dream ended for the Black Sticks who for 70 minutes battled hard, then pushed the game into extra time when Clarissa Eshuis hammered a penalty corner in off the pads of Lynch with 45sec remaining on the clock.

New Zealand had made most of the pace against the tiring Australians in the second half, and Lynch was the busier goalkeeper in extra time but their extra fitness was not a factor in penalty strokes, and the added experience of Australia was.

In a match played before the biggest crowd hockey has attracted at the Games, apart from India against Pakistan, New Zealand showed fighting qualities well beyond their years and experience.

Australia had the edge in both, yet twice the Black Sticks came from a goal down to level the scores in a match played in temperatures approaching 40degC at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Substituted players wore ice jackets to cool off as they sat in the team dugout.

Australia scored first in the ninth minute, Jessica Arrold slotting a penalty corner straight from the top of the circle under the body of a diving Jurgeleit.

New Zealand twice went close after 23 minutes, with a Punt shot halted by a foot, then Australia scrambling it clear after Lynch blocked an Eshuis penalty corner.

If Australia had looked slightly the better side in the first half, the Blacks Sticks transformed in the second, mounting a series of attacks which stretched their higher-ranked rivals.

Punt, Stacey Michelsen and Sam Harrison all tormented the defence as New Zealand grew in confidence, and even when Lynch staved New Zealand off in the 10th minute a goal seemed only a matter of time.

It came three minutes later, with Eshuis sending a penalty corner right to Harrison, who reverse sticked it home to level the scores at 1-1.

While both sides created chances in the last 15 minutes New Zealand came closer, with Michelsen putting one over the top of the goal, and Glynn just past the outside.

But Australia broke the deadlock through Ashleigh Nelson, who slid one home while lying on the ground and the Hockeyroos must have felt they had it, until Eshuis slotted her fourth goal of the tournament with 45sec left.

Australia came into the gold medal match with an older, more experienced side than the Black Sticks, and at No 5, a world ranking two places higher.

New Zealand beat South Africa 1-0 to make the final, while Australia downed England by the same margin.

England beat South Africa 1-0 in the bronze medal match.

- NZPA

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