Otago trio celebrate 700th in style

Otago hockey player Kane Russell in action during his 200th game for the Black Sticks in Oman....
Otago hockey player Kane Russell in action during his 200th game for the Black Sticks in Oman. Photo: supplied
They are calling it a 700th celebration.

A trio of Otago hockey greats combined for a memorable moment yesterday when they each bought up milestone appearances for the Black Sticks in Oman.

Hugo Inglis and Blair Tarrant each played their 250th game for New Zealand, and team-mate Kane Russell ran out for his 200th in a 3-1 win over Chile in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Muscat.

The hockey gods obviously aligned for three men who grew up playing the sport together and first grabbed attention, alongside another future international in Nick Ross, while at Otago Boys’ High School.

They have since played at world cups and Olympic Games, and are very much hoping they will get to play in Paris later this year.

The Black Sticks started the qualifying campaign in style, a year and a day after beating Chile by the same 3-1 margin.

New Zealand dominated most of the game and dictated the tempo against their opponents.

The first quarter set the tone for their dominance.

Chile opted for a defensive strategy, allowing the Black Sticks to control possession.

After seven minutes of probing and searching for openings, Simon Yorston unleashed a precise pass from the halfway line.

Joe Morrison, in his first match back from injury since the world cup, redirected the ball towards the goal, and Jake Smith, also returning from injury, spectacularly put it into the net to break the deadlock.

Five minutes later, the Black Sticks extended their lead with a brilliant play.

Russell’s powerful delivery into the circle found Scott Boyde, who showed his ability by swiping the ball into the goal, his first in the black shirt.

Entering the second quarter, Chile aimed to shift the momentum, launching their first attack of the game and appearing to have scored. However, their efforts were thwarted as a goal was denied due to the use of the back of the stick.

Chile continued to maintain a solid defensive setup in the third quarter but struggled to generate attacking opportunities.

With just 20 seconds left in the quarter, Sean Findlay’s precise pass from the top of the D reached Aidan Sarikaya on the wing.

Sarikaya’s well-executed cross found Sam Lane, who calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper, widening the lead to 3-0.

The final quarter was more subdued, New Zealand dominating possession but facing a stubborn Chilean defence.

In the dying moments, Chile secured a consolation goal, catching New Zealand off guard as Franco Beccera unleashed a powerful reverse shot from the top of the circle, capitalising on what the Black Sticks thought was a pause in play due to a second ball on the pitch.