Black Sticks women take series 1-0

The Black Sticks women coughed up a 1-0 lead over Japan at the National Hockey Centre in Auckland on Saturday night, but redeemed themselves yesterday with a 2-1 win to take the two-test series 1-0.

On Saturday, Japan started off the more dominant of the two sides, controlling territory and possession for the opening few minutes and earning several penalty corners.

The visitors were unable to capitalise on their early momentum, with the Kiwis recovering well from their slow start.

For most of the first half, it was advantage New Zealand, who made several entries into the Japanese defensive circle.

The Black Sticks broke the deadlock late in the first quarter when Olivia Shannon found herself in the right place at the right time to tap in a goal from a penalty corner.

Despite a number of good opportunities, New Zealand were frustrated by some strong last defence and some poor finishing.

Japan found their footing in the final quarter of the game and pressed the Black Sticks high up the field.

They were rewarded for their persistence when they found a leveller through Shiho Kobayakawa, who deflected in a shot from a baseline pass with five minutes to play.

Yesterday, the Black Sticks got revenge with a 2-1 win, the deciding goal coming late in the piece.

The game began with a tussle back and forth which continued from the first quarter well into the second as the teams tried to break the stalemate.

Momentum started to build in the third quarter as the Black Sticks were awarded three penalty corners, the third of which was dispatched by Fran Davies, giving the Kiwis the lead.

The fourth quarter began with some strong defence from the Black Sticks as they fought to keep their lead.

However, a repeat of Saturday was on the cards when Japan began to put up a fight and the visiting team managed to even the playing field with their first goal at four minutes left in the final quarter.

The Black Sticks struck back quickly, Rose Tynan scoring a powerful reverse shot just 30 seconds later to regain the lead.

A close call at two minutes left had the Black Sticks working hard to hold the Japanese off, but New Zealand managed to clinch the win.

The Black Sticks women now begin preparation for the FIH Nations Cup in Spain beginning on June 3.

— Staff reporter