Otago great helps NZ to spot in Paris

Otago great Hugo Inglis has helped propel the Black Sticks men to the Olympic Games.

The men avoided the fate of their disappointed women’s counterparts and sealed a place in Paris with a dramatic 3-2 win over Pakistan in the third-place playoff at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Oman.

It was 0-0 after a nervy first quarter in Muscat.

Pakistan then took the lead from a penalty corner before Scott Boyde scored the Black Sticks’ equaliser from the same method.

A penalty stroke gave Pakistan a 2-1 lead at halftime.

That score remained until late in the game when the Black Sticks scored twice to seal their passage to Paris.

Inglis, who brought up his 250th appearance for his country earlier in the tournament, scored to make it 2-2, and Boyde’s brace proved to be the clincher.

The Black Sticks were arguably not at their best at the tournament but there were some mitigating circumstances.

Simon Yorston was invalided out of the event in the second game — and the world governing body does not allow injury replacements — while Aidan Sarikaya has been playing with a broken hand, and Otago veteran Kane Russell played yesterday with a tweaked hamstring.

"It’s been a ton of work and it started way before this week," Inglis said from Oman.

"The group has just kept on growing and done a lot of hard work to punch the ticket.

"It’s been an awesome week. Oman has been epic. The guys have played some great hockey.

"We knew today was never going to be easy, and we’re just stoked."

Hugo Inglis celebrates his goal for the Black Sticks in Oman yesterday. PHOTO: RODRIGO JARAMILLO
Hugo Inglis celebrates his goal for the Black Sticks in Oman yesterday. PHOTO: RODRIGO JARAMILLO
Inglis said confidence and energy were the key focuses for the Black Sticks when they went into the sheds at halftime trailing by a goal.

"We know we’re a fit team and we knew we were going to get a lot of chances.

"We just needed to have confidence in each other and the energy to be in the right spots at the end."

Inglis has had plenty of high points in his long career in the black singlet, and scoring a crucial goal in an Olympic qualifier is up there.

He did not celebrate too wildly, however, as the goal was initially reviewed by the officials.

"Mostly relief. And surprise — I didn’t see a lot of it. I was just happy to trap the ball and get an empty net to finish in."

As one of the veterans of the team, Inglis is now something of a mentor to a new wave of talent coming through the national ranks.

"They are awesome hockey players in their own right and they don’t need much help.

"For us, it’s just instilling that belief in them, and backing them to take the game on. If we can go out there as old boys, and show them the way in the first couple of minutes and try to bring energy and intent on the ball, hopefully it flows through the whole team."

Paris will be a fourth Olympics for Inglis.

"I think I’m still in the relief stage, to be honest.

"There was a little moment before the second half when I had a little internal chat, and asked myself if it was going to be the last game of hockey I played for my country, and I firmly decided that it wasn’t."