Hockey: Both Black Sticks sides fall to Australia

By David Leggat

New Zealand's Kirsten Pearce fights for the ball. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz
New Zealand's Kirsten Pearce fights for the ball. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz

Australia took the honours in the first of three double headers in the inaugural transtasman hockey series at Lloyd Elsmore Park tonight.

The world No 1 Australian men prevailed in a rousing contest in driving rain, 4-2, after being 2-1 down against an impressive young New Zealand outfit.

That followed the fourth-ranked Australian women dunking world No 5 New Zealand 6-0 in the curtain raiser.

The second round of matches are on Saturday with the Ford-sponsored series wrapping up on Sunday.

If you wanted a sight to gladden a coaches heart it came early in the second quarter of the men's match.

Eight players were making their debut for New Zealand and two of them, Canterbury midfielder Dominic Newman and Auckland striker Kim Kingstone, combined expertly for a fine goal.

It came on the break, Newman made ground and switched the ball from the left into Kingstone's path and he made no mistake from close range.

This is a time of development for both New Zealand teams. Men's coach Colin Batch would have been chuffed by that moment.

Stephen Jenness scored New Zealand's first goal after seven minutes, a fine individual effort, but Australia responded strongly, with goals from another new face Aaron Kleinschmidt, Trent Mitton, digging the ball out from under his feet from close range, Aran Zalewski and finally a fierce penalty corner strike from Jeremy Hayward.

Earlier, the women's Black Sticks got a serious wakeup call to provide New Zealand with plenty of hard thinking ahead of Saturday's match.

It was the Black Sticks' worst result against Australia since May 2003 when Australia won their Oceania Cup clash by the same margin, and the first meeting since New Zealand bundled the Aussies out of the Rio Olympics in the quarter-finals in August.

World No 5 New Zealand are without several top class players for the series, and they'll need to learn rapidly if the three-match rubber in Auckland isn't to turn sour.

''We know the Aussies are a really aggressive side and I think in first quarter we dealt with that," captain Liz Thompson said.

''We didn't get a lot of attacking chances and as time went on we got a bit disorganised and frantic."

Quality defender Thompson, captaining the Black Sticks for the second time, acknowledged the learning curve for the younger players.

''The girls can take away a few things and not only the new ones.

''There were lessons across the board but it's a new team and we have to learn how to gel together in the next two games."

Classy attacker Kathryn Slattery was the player of the match, scoring two fine goals, with others coming from Kalindi Commerford, Georgia Nanscawen, Georgie Morgan and Ashlea Fey.

- NZ Herald

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