Hockey: Strong start for Black Sticks Women

By David Leggat

Pippa Hayward (L) scored twice for the Black Sticks. Photo / Getty
Pippa Hayward (L) scored twice for the Black Sticks. Photo / Getty

A 4-1 win over India enabled New Zealand to make a solid start to their four nation women's hockey tournament in Darwin tonight.

The world No 4 Black Sticks were guilty of wasting several fine chances, unable to fully capitalise on a wealth of possession on a hot evening.

Canterbury midfielder Pippa Hayward scored the first two goals, either side of halfway. The first had a touch of good luck, with the ball appearing to cross the back line before Hayward regained control and nudged it into the net.

Her second flew between the Indian goalkeeper's legs.

A firm drive from midfielder Anita McLaren, nee Punt, took a deflection off a defender before Petrea Webster, returning to international action after suffering a badly broken nose and concussion earlier in the year, completed the scoring with a shot while falling backwards.

Thirteenth-ranked India got the final goal, a fine individual effort by Devi Tokchum.

Black Sticks coach Mark Hager bemoaned the lost opportunities. Kirsten Pearce, Charlotte Harrison, Sophie Cocks and captain for the game Sam Charlton all wasted clear openings.

New Zealand have left out seasoned pair Gemma Flynn and Kayla Whitelock for this tournament, which also features world No 3 hosts Australia and 10th-ranked Japan.

Hager wants to see the other attacking options for the Rio Olympic campaign present their credentials for selection.

''We miss their experience and goal scoring nous," Hager said of Flynn and Whitelock.

''One of the reasons we left them out was to have a look at the others. They need to step up and make sure they're very clinical in the circle.

''I'm more disappointed they didn't finish (their chances), but I am pleased they're getting in the right spot and creating opportunities. Now we need to convert those into goals."

New Zealand's defence wasn't under significant pressure, until Tokchum's excellent individual goal, when she ran through and past three defenders to score.

Rose Keddell and Emily Gaddum had decisive games in defence.

The Black Sticks have lost world class midfielder Stacey Michelsen to a hamstring injury, suffered in the training camp in Darwin, which preceded the tournament.

Of more concern is a knee injury suffered by defender Kat Henry. She will have an MRI scan once she returns home.

Part of the exercise is to help acclimatise the players to the heat they will encounter in Rio. Coming out of a New Zealand winter, they played in what Hager estimated was about 30 deg C tonight.

All bar one of New Zealand's group games in Rio are in the afternoon heat.

Next up New Zealand play Australia tomorrow night. Both teams have left a handful of first choice players out but the match is still expected to have the usual ginger befitting a transtasman contest.

Australia beat Japan 3-1 in the late game tonight.

All four teams are going to Rio, the other three all in pool B. New Zealand are in group A.

- NZ Herald

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