Black Sticks claim courageous 1-1 draw


The Black Sticks women's hockey team have fought back to gain a courageous 1-1 draw against world champions the Netherlands at the Champions Trophy in Argentina.

Olivia Merry's 46th minute goal in the match this morning (NZ time) cancelled out a Dutch penalty corner goal just before halftime.

The victory came after New Zealand beat Japan 2-1 in their opening match, but this was clearly a step up in terms of opposition and performance.

New Zealand produced a determined defensive effort, highlighted by some fine work from rookie goalkeeper Georgia Barnett.

Barnett, who only has seven test caps and is playing in her first major tournament, praised her team for their discipline.

"We were pretty physical and we didn't give them an inch, particularly in that last quarter," she said.

New Zealand have only beaten the Netherlands twice – in 1953 and 1975 – and gained a hard-earned point today.

The Dutch, who are only missing three players from this year's World Cup winning team, had the majority of possession throughout and could easily have been further ahead had it not been for the defensive fortitude of the Kiwis.

"It was a really gutsy effort from the girls today, it would have been nice to win but we will always take a draw against the Dutch," captain Anita Punt said.

The Black Sticks managed to keep the Dutch scoreless in the first quarter and then started to look more threatening on attack themselves.

But just two minutes before halftime Caia van Maasakker converted a penalty corner from a powerful drag flick and the Netherlands took the lead. 
Merry's reply came off a slick pass from Pippa Hayward, getting a clever edge to deflect it in.

New Zealand play their final pool play game against fifth-ranked China at 10am Wednesday (NZ time).

 - Stuff

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