Top matches of 2012 - No.10: Black Sticks go down fighting

The New Zealand Black Sticks as Kayla Sharland misses a goal during the penalty shootout, in the Hockey Semifinal match against New Zealand and Netherlands. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
The New Zealand Black Sticks as Kayla Sharland misses a goal during the penalty shootout, in the Hockey Semifinal match against New Zealand and Netherlands. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

The stunning, spectacular and the sentimental, lists the top ten sporting matches of 2012.

Number 10: Black Sticks go down fighting against world number 1
Thursday August 9, 2012

When the Black Sticks made the semi-final of the women's hockey tournament at the London Olympics, they faced the world's toughest opposition on the world's biggest stage.

The Netherlands were the number one ranked team in the world, and had blitzed their way into the semis with five wins from five games to face the unfancied Kiwis.

But the Black Sticks didn't back down, and put in an astonishing display of gutsy, foot-to-the-floor hockey to push them to the brink before eventually going down 3-1 in a shootout after the scores were level at 2-2 after extra time.

The loss ended the dreams of Olympic gold or silver for the Black Sticks and the emotional turmoil of coming so close eventually spilled over into their third and fourth playoff match against Great Britian which they lost 3-1.

"Whenever I have done speeches since the Olympics I always talk about this as the best game that we have played, but also the worst," said Kayla Sharland who was the Black Sticks captain at the Olympics.

"On the one hand, losing isn't nice, especially when we got that far against that team, but to play one of the best games of hockey against the number one side in the world was pretty amazing."

It was a brave effort from start to finish from the Black Sticks who twice held the lead and with a little more luck towards the end of regulation time could have had an historic victory.

What they said:

New Zealand Herald deputy sports editor Dylan Cleaver who was reporting on the game.

"If ever there was evidence that sporting drama can play havoc with your brain cells, it was the Black Sticks quite extraordinary semifinal against the Netherlands.

"I remember it was a beautiful, sun-kissed afternoon in London. I remember the sea of orange and black and the wonderful atmosphere. I remember Katie Glynn being clubbed on the back of the head by a Dutch stick and returning, a la Bert Sutcliffe, bloodied, bandaged and brave.

"I remember it was a draw after normal and extra time and the Black Sticks lost in the shoot-out (and strangely, given all the blanks, I can remember all but one New Zealand player taking the crazy option of faking on to their weaker backhand side).

"I remember the looks of bereavement on the Black Sticks' faces and the tears in the tunnel. I knew in my heart of hearts they were never going to win the third-placed playoff after that crushing disappointment."

Black Sticks skipper Kayla Sharland

"We were always ahead and they were always trying to catch us, and in the shootout situation we were not up to their experienced standards and that showed.

"When we were getting drug tested after the game I was talking to players from their team that I had played with in Holland and they said it was one of the best games they had played in, and that we had improved so much.

"We stepped up, we were ruthless and gave it everything we could.

"It was a pretty physically hard game and it went down to the wire so it was also mentally draining, and that combined with the fact we had something to lose (Bronze medal) put added pressure on the girls and we couldn't get the performance we were after."

Over the next 10 days we will count down the best matches of 2012. Which ones stood out? Have your say below.

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