The Vantage Black Sticks Women will defend their title at the Vantage Hawkes Bay Festival following a 2-1 win over USA in their final pool match.

The Kiwis were in second place coming into the match but needed to win to be sure of a berth in the final after Japan beat Australia earlier in the day.

USA made the early running and were rewarded in just the third minute when Caitlin van Sickle completed a well worked penalty corner.

The rest of the quarter and the early part of the second quarter belonged to USA as the Black Sticks struggled to string passes together and had to defend strongly to keep the visitors at bay.

Ten minutes from halftime the Black Sticks started to make more of their possession and in the 23rd minute a cross from Olivia Merry found Kirsten Pearce unmarked in front of gaol and she made no mistake with the shot.

New Zealand continued to attack strongly and forced three penalty corners in quick succession. The first two were cleared by the USA but the third, in the 28th minute, resulted in a clean shot for Brooke Neal which found the net.

The Black Sticks were unlucky not to score their third goal when Erin Goad fired over the top from close range just before halftime.

The 2-1 result sees the Kiwis top the pool in the double round robin competition with 11 points, Japan and Australia finish on 9 and the USA 4. Japan finishes second as they won three matches to Australias two.

The Hawkes Bay Cup final will be a repeat of the 2016 final, with the Vantage Black Sticks up against Japan at 5:15pm tomorrow, with live coverage through Facebook.

VANTAGE BLACK STICKS 2: (Kirsten Pearce, Brooke Neal)

JAPAN 1: (Caitlin van Sickle)

Halftime: Black Sticks 2-1


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