Commonwealth Games: Black Sticks beat hoodoo, progress to hockey final

  • 12/04/2018

New Zealand have beaten England 2-1 in a penalty shoot-out to earn a spot in the women's hockey gold medal match at the Commonwealth Games.

The result was long overdue revenge for the Black Sticks, following the Glasgow 2014 semi-finals, when they were beaten 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out by England.

Goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon was the hero for New Zealand, saving four of England's five strikes.

Hannah Martin, third player up for England, converted her strike only for Sam Harrison to equalise for New Zealand as next player up.

O'Hanlon saved England's next two strikes, then Black Sticks skipper Stacey Michelsen stepped up to slam home and secure the win.

While most shooters tried to go around the respective goalies, Michelsen took the aerial route, scooping the ball over the English keeper.

New Zealand's shoot-out record has not been great in recent years. Apart from Glasgow four years ago, the NZ women have also been on the wrong end against Australia at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and Netherlands at the 2012 London Olympics. 

Coach Mark Hager had been unable to look while Michelsen took her penalty, saying afterwards that his heart had been pumping.

"The last one I couldn't watch," a beaming Hager said afterwards.

"I'm so pleased for Stacey, because she's probably missed a lot over her time. she scored one in in London and probably hasn't scored one since.

"I'm so proud of her, she always puts her hand up. She hasn't shirked the issue - her mindset is 'I'm going to get better at this' and I'm so proud she converted it."

Hager also paid tribute to both his keepers - Sally Rutherford, who tended goal for all four quarters of regular time, and shoot-out specialist O'Hanlon.

"Grace was brilliant. She kept us in it, gave us a chance and I think that helps the people taking the shoot-out, when your goalkeeper is making saves," he said.

"I thought Sally was fantastic during the game - her first half kept us in the contest, because we were under the pump.

"They had a lot of baseline entries and a lot of ball across the face of goal, and I thought Sally was brilliant in that area for us."

The Black Sticks defence was stretched through the first half, England forcing four penalty corners, but unable to convert.

The Kiwis created fewer opportunities, Michelsen and Anita McLaren sharp in the midfield, but unable to build enough pressure to break the scrambling English defence.

The stalemate continued through the third quarter, England still looking the more cohesive up front, while the Kiwis were restricted to more individual forays.

The Black Sticks upped the pressure in the final stanza, almost snatching a last-second winner through Olivia Merry, before the game-deciding penalty shootout beckoned.