Hockey: Black Sticks reaping rewards

By David Leggat

Hockey international Black Sticks v Malaysia.
Hockey international Black Sticks v Malaysia.

If you want an example of time spent together producing a quality result look no further than the men's Black Sticks and their win over South Korea at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Auckland on Thursday night.

The world No8-ranked New Zealand are halfway through the second of two four-game series against Malaysia and South Korea.

Thursday's 7-1 spanking of a team ranked one spot behind them was a class exhibition borne in large part out of a demanding match and training programme in recent weeks.

New Zealand were scratchy against 13th-ranked Malaysia, winning the series 2-1 with one drawn.

The opener against the Koreans on Wednesday was instructive. New Zealand were 3-0 down at halftime. However, they lifted their performance, played with greater cohesion and earned a draw, through striker Blair Hilton five seconds from time.

By contrast, they bossed the first half of Thursday's contest, led 3-0 at the break and ran away with the game in the last 10 minutes, scoring a further four goals.

"The difference [between the first and second matches] was we were a little more clinical," said striker Stephen Jenness, who scored two of the seven goals.

"Our passes connected and we got into the right positions to put the ball in the net. It was one of those nights where everything fell for us. But there are still areas we can work on."

Captain Simon Child also grabbed a double on Thursday, both top-class strikes. Although happy on a personal level, he was more pleased the team produced high quality hockey.

"We played at a level we know we can. We've set ourselves a benchmark for the next two games," he said.

Child reflected that the Malaysian series had been New Zealand's first outing for five months.

Cobwebs were removed. Thursday night was the payoff for the six games, and accompanying time on the practice pitch.

"It's about maintaining that level," Child said.

"Typically we get up for very important games but perhaps let ourselves down against teams we would normally beat.We have to get stuck into the next two games [today and tomorrow at the same venue], play good, consistent hockey and get a really positive result."

- New Zealand's women's squad of 18 has been named for the Hawkes Bay Cup in Hastings in April.

Experienced quartet goalkeeper Sally Rutherford, defender Julia King, midfielder Anita Punt and attacker Charlotte Harrison are all back after missing the recent six-test series in Argentina.

Coach Mark Hager has also named two groups of 18 players for each of two tests against world No19 Canada in Hamilton on March 27 and 28.

- NZ Herald

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