Photo: Planet Hockey
The Vantage Black Sticks Men have been held to a 3-3 draw with France in their opening clash at the Hockey World League Semi Final in Johannesburg.
New Zealand shook off a slow start to put together some flowing hockey against the physical French, but struggled to convert more of their chances into goals.
Striker Hugo Inglis scored a double while Stephen Jenness added his side’s third in a result which sees the Black Sticks come away with one point.
Southern defender Kane Russell brought up his 100th test cap in the drawn game.
Head coach Darren Smith said it was a tough opening game at the tournament.
“We knew France were going to be a tough opponent and we expected them to come out firing, which they did,” he said.
“We couldn’t get our corners going today and we weren’t as smooth as we need to be on both sides of the ball.
“I think we were a bit tentative throughout the match so we have plenty to work on leading into our next game against Japan.”
New Zealand opened the scoring in just the third minute with Jenness slipping a deflection past the goalkeeper from a Sam Lane pass.
But France responded two minutes later when Etienne Tynevez snuck behind the Kiwi defence to beat the outstretched leg of Devon Manchester in goal.
France stunned the Black Sticks early in the second quarter with another field goal against the run of play to take a 2-1 lead.
Hugo Inglis equalised shortly before halftime after making a cutting run into the circle and shooting into goal on his reverse stick.
Inglis picked up his double in the 32nd minute, putting a deft touch on a hard crash ball into the circle from Nick Ross.
France refused to let the Kiwis stay out in front and equalised the game once again late in the third quarter through Pieter van Straaten.
The Kiwis mounted huge pressure over the final five minutes but couldn’t find a way past the French defence to snatch a win.
The Vantage Black Sticks are back in action against Japan in their second match at 2:00am on Wednesday morning (NZT), with live coverage on SKY Sport.
CLICK HERE for more on the World League Semi Final in Johannesburg
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS 3: (Hugo Inglis 2, Stephen Jenness)
FRANCE 3: (Etienne Tynevez, Francois Goyet, Pieter van Straaten)