Japan have held their nerve in the first match of the TSB Community Trust Series 2-1 over the Vantage Black Sticks Men. The Japan side hit the front early and never relented throughout the match.
Hirotaka Wakuri was named the Asia Foundation man of the match for his outstanding effort in helping the Japan side take out the match one victory.
The Vantage Black Sticks Men began their road to Tokyo Qualification against the Japan Samurai Men, on a blustery Stratford evening the two sides battled out a tough first quarter. The New Zealand Men were looking to hold possession early on and size up the Japan screen. It was the Japan side who managed to create the first scoring opportunities when they had two early penalty corners. On their second corner George Enersen pulled off a great save, it was Japan who jumped on the rebound and Kota Watanabe put the ball into the side of the New Zealand goal. New Zealand would have a late penalty corner; however, the Japan goalkeeper was up to the task to keep the Kiwis out.
The New Zealand side looked to be playing with more freedom and confidence in the second quarter, the Japanese Men were stoic in defence and continued to stifle the Black Sticks attacking opportunity. Late in the half, Simon Child managed to create a great circle entry after eliminating two Japanese defenders, unfortunately for the New Zealand side, they couldn’t find the space in the Japan circle to get a clear shot off.
Japan reasserted their dominance of the match in the third quarter, seven minutes into the third quarter the Japan side was rewarded off a crash ball into the circle that the Black Sticks couldn’t clear. Hiromasa Ochiai grabbed the rebound off the New Zealand defence and the Japan side managed to scramble the ball into the goal.
New Zealand managed to find their way onto the score sheet with six minutes to go in the match when Nic Woods powered a drag flick into the Japan goal. The goal brought the Black Sticks to life and were playing with a renewed hunger out on the field as they looked to tie the match back up. Japan managed to absorb the late pressure that the New Zealand side threw at them as they held on for a 2-1 win.
Vantage Black Sticks Men 1 (Nic Woods 54 min)
Japan 2 (Kota Watanabe 11 min, Hiromasa Ochai 37 min)