Defensive lapses cost NZ

Sean Dancer
Sean Dancer
The Black Sticks were the architects of their own demise with three critical defensive errors proving costly as Australia won the Tri-Nations final 3-1 in Cromwell yesterday.

The final margin belies what was a much more competitive match than the comfortable scoreline suggests.

The home team created plenty of opportunities, particularly during a dominant second quarter.

But Australia latched on to a series of defensive blunders to claim the title.

Stand-in head coach Sean Dancer lamented his side’s consistency.

"It was certainly not our best game defensively," he said.

"It represents a little bit how the tournament went. We just haven’t had the consistency.

"We got back into the game in the second quarter and could have probably scored another goal or so.

"But unfortunately we couldn’t put things together in that second half."

Australian captain Emily Smith had a strong match in her 200th game for her country. The diminutive striker was busy early in an otherwise quiet opening 15 minutes.

The visiting side did manage a goal, though. Jodie Kenny slapped in a penalty stroke midway through the period.

New Zealand’s best opportunity came when striker Olivia Merry burst into a gap and ran 50m up field.

She tried to find Michaela Curtis in the circle but the Australian goalie Ashlee Wells came out of her goal and defused what shaped as a good chance to poach one back.The equaliser came early in the second spell when Sam Harrison made a diving effort to deflect a penalty corner into the net.

The goal breathed new life into the Black Sticks’ effort and the opportunities started mounting up.

The home side’s defence in the midfield and ability to swing on to attack rapidly should have netted a couple  more goals.

There were a couple of frenetic scrambles in front of the goal and Merry found herself one on one with the goalie after Rose Keddell robbed possession and sent a pinpoint pass 40m up field to the striker.

It was only brilliant work by Wells which denied the Black Sticks the lead.

But wouldn’t you know it. After all that hard work Australia scored against the run of play when Ambrosia Malone latched on to a defensive blunder and cracked in a shot to give her side a 2-1 lead at halftime.

Two more defensive lapses in the third quarter enabled Australia to clinch victory.

Brooke Peris played a hand in both goals. She swooped on to the first mistake and offloaded to Emily Hurtz, who provided the finish.

The second was a gift. A seemingly harmless ball got knocked into the circle but it defeated everybody except Peris, who just had to tap it in.

On Saturday, the Black Sticks made a dramatic comeback to secure a place in the final. Japan led 3-1 with about four minutes remaining.

But Harrison flicked in a cross in the 57th minute to give her side hope.

The Black Sticks then had successive penalty corners before being awarded a stroke right on fulltime.

Merry converted to force a shootout.

Goalie Grace O’Hanlon saved all of Japan’s attempts, while Merry and Ella Gunson netted to seal a 2-0 shootout win.

 

Tri-Nations
The scores

 

Playoff 

Black Sticks    3

Shiloh Gloyn, Sam Harrison, Olivia Merry

Japan    3

Mai Toriyama 2, Yuri Nagai.

Halftime: 1-1

New Zealand won the shoot-out 2-0

 

Final

Australia    4

Jodie Kenny, Ambrosia Malone, Emily Hurtz, Brooke Peris

Black Sticks    1

Sam Harrison

Halftime: 2-1

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