Hockey: Black Sticks Men happy with start to Rio preparations

By David Leggat

Black Sticks youngster Nic Woods. Photo / Getty
Black Sticks youngster Nic Woods. Photo / Getty

Seventeen goals in four matches, and a 2-0 series win over capable South Korea make good reading for the men's Black Sticks as they complete the first leg of their Olympic preparations for Rio.

Today's 1-1 draw in Auckland was the second match to finish level in the series, while New Zealand scrambled a 3-3 in game one with a goal from Blair Hilton five seconds from time, after being down 3-0 at halftime.

However thumping 7-1 and 6-1 wins in games two and three had team officials and players smiling.

''We come away from this series with a lot of positives and that will help our development a lot going forward towards Rio," assistant coach Bryce Collins said today.

Midfielder Nic Woods scored New Zealand's goal in the first quarter, from a penalty corner, replying to the earlier strike by Jihun Yang. The ninth-ranked Koreans earned the praise of Collins today. He suggested Korea played with desperation as they searched for their first win of the series.

"Korea were much better in this game than they have been, we struggled in the first quarter and they had a lot of ball which frustrated us," he said.

Averaging a blink over four goals a game was one of the high points for the world No 8 Black Sticks.

Capital striker Stephen Jenness was the most prolific goalscorer in the series with four while penalty corner striker Kane Russell, and attacker Nick Wilson bagged three each, captain Simon Child and Woods two each with one apiece for Hugo Inglis, Blair Hilton and Shay Neal.

"The ability to score goals has been a big focus for us so to come away with two big wins highlights we're heading in the right direction but we still have a lot of work to do," Collins added.

The Black Sticks now get back into training ahead of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia from April 7-17, where they are the defending champions having beaten world No 1 Australia in last year's final.

- NZ Herald

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