The Vantage Black Sticks Women have retained the Hawkes Bay Cup by defeating Japan 3-0 in the final of the Vantage Hawkes Bay Festival of Hockey.
New Zealand came in as top qualifier from round robin with three wins from six matches. Japan also had three wins but had lost three games to finish two points behind in second place. This years final was a repeat of 2016 where the Kiwis beat Japan 2-1.
Head coach Mark Hager said it was pleasing to come away from the tournament with the trophy for the second year in a row.
"It was a good tough game as you always expect a final to be. Up by just one goal going into the last quarter, we knew it was going to be a close finish," Hager said,
"To the girls credit they kept fighting hard and deserved their two late goals. It was a nice way to finish off the tournament. We have not always been consistent, but its pleasing to see the whole group keep working hard for each other."
The Black Sticks were on the scoreboard in just the fifth minute when Rachel McCann beat the keeper with a great shot. They were unlucky not to be two up, after Kirsten Pearce had a goal disallowed when the umpires ruled the ball had hit a foot on its way into the net.
The second half was punctuated by tenacious defence from both sides as they went searching for goals.
Japan pushed forward in search of an equaliser and Black Sticks keeper Sally Rutherford was called into action on a number of occasions.
Rutherford saved two cracking shots that were shoulder height and goalward bound by pushing the ball wide. Then she did enough to scramble the ball clear to avert the danger from a penalty corner.
The match was decided in the Black Sticks favour when they scored two goals in the 57th minute.
The first went to Rose Keddell who put a reverse stick shot high into the left hand corner of the Japan goal and then captain Olivia Merry got on the scoresheet when a cross from the left side wasnt dealt with by the Japan defence and she pushed the ball into the goal.
The Vantage Black Sticks are the first team to win the Hawkes Bay Cup twice in its four year history.
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS 3: (Rachel McCann, Rose Keddell, Olivia Merry)
Halftime: Black Sticks 1-0