League tough going for NZ sides

New Zealand women's Black Sticks player Stacey Michelson makes a break against Great Britain...
New Zealand women's Black Sticks player Stacey Michelson makes a break against Great Britain during their final women's FIH Pro League match at Twickenham yesterday. Photos: Getty Images
It may have flown under the radar somewhat but New Zealand has racked up a very disappointing year in the inaugural FIH Pro league.

The league was set up to give some structure to the international calendar. It has ended its regular season.

Neither the Black Sticks men's nor women's teams will be in next week's finals, and judging by their results they do not deserve to be.

The teams played their final games in London yesterday against Great Britain. Both sides lost. The men were beaten 2-0 and the women went down 3-1.

The men did not win a game the whole season. The side played 14 games, had four draws and 10 losses.

Unable to field its full-strength side for much of the programme, they finished bottom of the eight-team league.

In a draw, the sides then went to a shootout and New Zealand failed to win one.

Shea McAleese, of the men's Black Sticks, is at full stretch trying to contain Great Britain's...
Shea McAleese, of the men's Black Sticks, is at full stretch trying to contain Great Britain's Tom Sorsby during their match. Both New Zealand sides were beaten.
In London, the visiting men's side was always going to struggle against a hungry Great Britain team which wanted to win to make the playoffs.

The home team scored an early goal which got the confidence going and its speed put the Black Sticks under pressure.

The Black Sticks gained composure as the game went on and created chances. But with nine minutes left, the British side scored a second which killed the game off.

New Zealand had more possession and penalty corners but that meant little.

In the women's game, Great Britain attacked hard in the first quarter but New Zealand held firm.

The Black Sticks scored a goal from a penalty corner in the second quarter but it was ruled out after a review. Shortly afterwards, the home team went ahead with a Hannah Martin deflection. It then went 2-0 up straight after halftime.

Late in the third quarter, the British side was able to extend its lead when Lily Owsley scored her second of the match off a rebound from a penalty corner.

In the final minute of the third quarter the Black Sticks managed to get themselves on the score sheet when Olivia Merry scored her 15th goal of the league. But they could not find any more goals and the score remained 3-1 until the end.

The women ended up sixth of the nine teams in the Pro League standings, winning six out of 16 games. It finished with 18 points, 11 points out of playoff contention.

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