Hockey: Black Sticks to defend Hawke's Bay Cup

New Zealand's Kirsten Pearce celebrates her goal against the United States. Photo / photosport.nz
New Zealand's Kirsten Pearce celebrates her goal against the United States. Photo / photosport.nz

The Black Sticks women will defend their title at the Hawke's Bay Festival of Hockey, after edging the United States 2-1 in their final pool match in Hastings.

New Zealand were second coming into the contest but, after Japan beat Australia in the earlier match, knew they needed victory to punch their ticket for tomorrow's final.

And goals from Kirsten Pearce and Brooke Neal saw them do just that, setting up a replay of last year's final, where the Black Sticks beat Japan 2-1.

That looked unlikely early as the US made the early running and found reward in the third minute, when Caitlin van Sickle converted a well-worked penalty corner.

The rest of the first quarter and the early part of the second belonged to Americans as the Black Sticks struggled to string together passes and had to defend strongly to keep their opponents at bay.

With 10 minutes to go until the halftime break, the Black Sticks started to earn more of the possession, finding the equaliser in the 23rd minute as a cross from Olivia Merry found Kirsten Pearce unmarked in front of goal.

New Zealand continued to attack strongly and soon forced three penalty corners in quick succession. The first two were cleared by the US but the third, in the 28th minute, resulted in a clean shot for Brooke Neal to find the net.

The second half saw the US attack for extended periods but no equaliser was forthcoming. The closest they came was in the 40th minute when a sizzling shot hit the post and rebounded away.

The victory saw the Black Sticks top the pool with 11 points, as Japan edged Australia on a countback.

New Zealand 2 (Kirsten Pearce, Brooke Neal)
United States 1 (Caitlin van Sickle)
Halftime: 2-1

- NZ Herald

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