The Vantage Black Sticks Men have finished off their preparation for the Olympic Qualification series with a gutsy 2-0 win over Japan in the fourth match of the TSB Community Trust Series. Behind an outstanding performance from TET man of the match Nic Woods who was a rock in the middle for the New Zealand team.
Black Sticks coach Darren Smith Commented “It was good to finish the four-game series on a high note, and a fantastic flick from Kane set us up well tonight. 2-0 was a good result against a strong Japanese side. We will head home and have some downtime for a few days before the whole group will assemble in Auckland we will then turn our attention to Korea and the important Olympic Qualification series”.
The New Zealand side came into the fourth and final match of the TSB Community Trust series with a 2-1 series lead.
The kiwis were looking aggressive at the start of the match and were pressing the Japan side and forcing them into turnovers deep in their half. Despite going close on some great interchange play between the strike line the Black Sticks couldn’t put the ball in the net in the first quarter.
Japan started the second quarter confidently and forced Richard Joyce to pull off some composed saves. The kiwis worked their way into the quarter and earned themselves a penalty corner off some great passing in the circle. Kane Russell got a clean drag flick off that rocketed into the top of the goal beating the Japanese defence for pace and placement. New Zealand constructed several more opportunities in the quarter but were unable to break the Japan defensive line and the score remained 1-0 at the half time break.
Japan came out in the third quarter looking fast and hungry and were pushing the New Zealand side early at the start of the second half. The kiwi defence was stoic and didn’t allow Japan a chance to get any clear shots off. After absorbing the early pressure New Zealand went close as the ball went just wide of the post on a few occasions, however, the New Zealand side couldn’t increase their lead in the third quarter.
The Vantage Black Sticks doubled their lead at the start of the fourth quarter when a great Kane Russell overhead found an open New Zealand player in the circle who laid the ball back to Simon Child for a great shot and his 141st goal for the New Zealand side. The kiwis then continued to press the Japanese side searching for their third goal. Japan was resolute and the match ended with a 2-0 win to the Vantage Black Sticks.
The New Zealand Men will return to the turf on the 2nd of November when they take on Korea in the important 2 match series which will see the winners punch their ticket to Tokyo.
Vantage Black Sticks Men 2 (Kane Russell 16 min, Simon Child 50 min)