The USA belied their bottom of the table position when they accounted for early leaders Japan 4 - 1 at the Vantage Hawkes Bay Cup being played in Hastings, New Zealand.

Japan was in third position on the points table coming into the fifth round match while the USA had only a draw to show from their four matches.

The USA made the running from the start and struck in the ninth minute when Alyssa Parker put the ball in the back of the goal.

It was just four minutes later when the US extended their lead. This time it was Jill Witmer who scored with a good strike from a well worked penalty corner.

The rest of the half saw both teams force penalty corners but were unable to score.

The early part of the second half was scrappy with neither side able to string a series of passes together. The game was made safe for the US in the 40th minute when Michelle Vittese got free in the shooting circle and made no mistake with the shot.

The US made it four in the 52nd minute when captain, Melissa Gonzalez shot low from a penalty corner and the ball went under the body of Japan keeper Megumi Kageyama.

Japan did get a consolation goal just a minute later when Yukari Mano scored from one of their few attacking opportunities.

The win means the USA team stays in the hunt for a finals berth but must beat the Black Sticks in their final pool match on Saturday and will rely on other results going their way.

Japans final match is also a must win against Australia on Saturday (NZ time).

The top two teams after double round robin play will compete for the Vantage Hawkes Bay Cup on Sunday 9th April (NZ time)

Half time score: USA 2 Japan 0

Final score USA 4 (Alyssa Parker, Jill Witmer, Michelle Vittese, Melissa Gonzalez) Japan 1

(Yukari Mano)

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Hockey NZ