Hockey: Black Sticks claim Four Nations title

Blacksticks Gemma Flynn in action. Photo / Wayne Drought.
Blacksticks Gemma Flynn in action. Photo / Wayne Drought.

The Black Sticks women have won the Four Nations tournament with a 3-2 victory over Australia tonight at the North Harbour Hockey Stadium.

After losing 3-1 in pool play to their trans-Tasman rivals, the home side pulled out one of their best 70-minute performances in recent times to clinch the title in the final.

Black Sticks captain Kayla Sharland, who had been in doubt for the match with stitches in her left knee, said it was the best 70 minutes of hockey from her team for a long time.

"We started with a lot of energy. We were really aggressive and we were connecting well. We also got that goal scoring feeling back in the group again and that's good to see.''

"When we start aggressive and we push and we win ball I think we carry that through the game.''

Sharland praised the efforts of Stacey Michelsen saying her move upfront gave the team the impetus they needed in attack and she also made a number of invaluable steals.

The Black Sticks came out firing after a couple of sluggish starts in this tournament, and within 12 minutes were on the scoresheet with a penalty corner effort from Sharland that went low into the left hand corner of the goal.

Minutes later Cathryn Finlayson had a chance to make it 2-0 as a brilliant deflected pass from Krystal Forgesson put Finlayson free in the circle with just the keeper to beat. But a last gasp tackle from a chasing Australian defender put paid to that shot on goal.

Both Forgesson and Finlayson then had opportunities in front of goal that they should have taken, while three further penalty corners for the Black Sticks were also unable to be converted.

It was a superb 35 minutes of hockey from the Black Sticks, and they would have to be disappointed to go into the break with a solitary one goal advantage from their 11 shots on goal.

That was rectified eight minutes into the second spell when Katie Glynn deflected in a smashing reverse shot from Michelsen to give the home side a 2-0 lead.

The Hockeyroos grabbed one back with a penalty corner to Anna Flanagan before Samantha Harrison restored the two-goal advantage as she latched on to a great through ball from Sharland.
The Australians got another one back after a wealth of penalty corners when Jodie Schulz slotted in a corner, and despite swapping their goalkeeper for an attacking player for the last few minutes they couldn't clinch the equaliser.

Michelsen was named player of the tournament, while Gemma Flynn made her 100th appearance in the black strip tonight after a hamstring injury meant she missed yesterday's match.

In tonight's play-off for third and fourth, the USA beat India 2-1 with an extra time golden goal penalty stroke from captain Lauren Crandall.

The Four Nations tournament continues until 22 April with the second series starting on Wednesday at Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium in Pakuranga.

RESULTS

Final - New Zealand v Australia

Full time: 3-2 ( New Zealand win)
Half time: 1-0 (New Zealand lead)
New Zealand goalscorers: Kayla Sharland, Katie Glynn, Samantha Harrison.
Australia goalscorers: Anna Flanagan, Jodie Schulz.

Third and fourth play-off - India v USA

Extra time: 2-1 (USA win)
Full time: 1-1
Half time: 0-0
USA goalscorers: Shannon Taylor, Lauren Crandall
Indian goalscorers: Chanchan Thokchom

Goalkeeper of the tournament: Toni Cronk (Australia)

Player of the tournament: Stacey Michelsen (New Zealand).

- APNZ

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