New blood or not, either the Black Sticks or Team USA were going to feel anaemic in Hastings last night.

If it had escaped the teams' attention any time throughout the game, the hit song I Can Feel It - from The Weeknd, featuring Daft Punk - was becoming an earworm every time they conceded penalty corners at Unison Stadium.

When the clatter of the sticks stopped an hour later in the pesky drizzle, the Janneke Schopman-coached Americans were feeling the anaemic effect of fatigue after going down 3-2 to the Vantage-sponsored defending champions.

With just a draw from three matches, the Melissa Gonzalez-captained world No 6 US side have fallen behind from the peloton of leaders Japan on six points, undefeated Australia five and New Zealand four, with just one point.


Black Sticks coach Mark Hager had impressed pre-match his desire to see his mainly young and restless squad members go for the jugular and show more consistency.

As expected from any outfit going through a rebuilding cycle post-Rio Olympics, both sides had patches of mental lapses but the Black Sticks last night showed some gritty determination in defence as well as killer instincts at the coalface.

It was appropriate 13-cap-old Amy Robinson put her hand up to lend credence to Hager's edict that those who don't reflect those attributes will be called to task.

"I guess as a midfield/striker you're always wanting to score," said Robinson, of Tauranga, who equalised 1-all in a tit-for-tat goal after Erin Matson struck one past Queensland-born Kiwi goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon in the 11th minute.

The 21-year-old double international, specialising in 400m hurdles, finds the transition from track to turf lends to the tensile strength required to last 60 minutes, especially in the 14C conditions last night.

"[We have] so much to learn, especially in the last quarter where we were so frantic and so definitely a lot to take away from that game and improve against Japan tomorrow."

Olivia Merry, captain of the night, did justice to some communal labour in deftly putting a cross to another returning older head, Samantha Harrison, to put the ball past American goalkeeper Jackie Briggs, who had received a bouquet of flowers for representing her country in the 150th match, for a 2-1 lead.

Capital striker Kelsey Smith, with 39 caps under her belt, slipped another worm burner past Briggs to extend the lead to 3-1 in the 34th minute.


The Americans threw the kitchen sink at the Sticks in the final quarter for Ashley Hoffman to pull one back to 3-2 from a penalty corner in the 49th minute.

Robinson said it could have been very messy in the back had they not had the services of the likes of 100-plus capped Rose Keddell, Brooke Neal, Pippa Hayward and Liz Thompson in the mix. Seven-cap-old Jessa Topp, 20, of Southern, blended in well.

"Grace also made some awesome saves otherwise we would have been in trouble."

Robinson, who also helped crank up the engine room, said it was better than against the Hockeyroos on Saturday and Japan today would be another litmus test.

Team USA goalkeeper Jackie Briggs receives a bouquet of flowers for her 150th cap as fellow goalkeeper Lauren Blazing smiles with approval. PHOTOS/Paul Tayolr
Team USA goalkeeper Jackie Briggs receives a bouquet of flowers for her 150th cap as fellow goalkeeper Lauren Blazing smiles with approval. PHOTOS/Paul Tayolr

Briggs said it was a memorable day despite three balls slipping past her.

"Every cap is memorable. I still remember the first one," said the 28-year-old from Pennsylvania. She described her maiden cap as a surreal experience against Argentina as a 21-year-old university student. Ironically, she conceded three goals that day as well, in front of 4000 fans.

"I'm a competitor and I always want to win. I hate losing, even in practice, so that's what kind of drives me to do what I do every day."

Briggs relished the time alongside her teammates in the turf trench last night but emphasised she still learned something every day.

"I'm still learning and growing and the beauty of the game is you never have a perfect one."

She said USA had nothing to lose in the remaining games.

"We try to win every game and today we didn't so it's disappointing, you know, so we have nothing to lose and we'll give it everything tomorrow," Briggs said before they play the Hockeyroos from 4pm today with heavy rain forecast for the best parts of the country in the next few days.

Asked if she had anything else to add, Briggs thanked the Bay for hosting Team USA in the village of Havelock North.

"Everyone's so welcoming and we're just like proud to be here and really excited to play against some great competition."

Today, 4pm: Australia v USA.
6pm: NZ v Japan.

Tomorrow, 3.30pm: USA v Japan.
5.30pm: Australia v NZ.

Saturday, April 8, 3pm: Australia v Japan.
5pm: NZ v USA.

Sunday, April 9, 3pm: 3rd v 4th.
5.15pm: 1st v 2nd.


Rd 1: Australia 1 Team USA 1, Japan 2 NZ 1.
Rd 2: Japan 2 Team USA 1, Australia 1 NZ 1.
Rd 3: Australia 2 Japan 1, NZ 3 Team USA 2.