The Vantage Black Sticks Men battled out a 3-3 draw with Japan in hot conditions in the opening match of their four game series in Shiga, Japan this evening.
It was the Black Sticks first game since arriving in the country on Wednesday afternoon, and played in stifling 30 degree plus temperatures.
Dominic Newman, the Canterbury midfielder, opened the scoring for the Black Sticks just before the end of the first quarter, but Japan struck back in the 2nd leaving the game tied up at 1:1 at half time, after an evenly contested first half.
Japan came out strong in the third quarter scoring two further goals either side of the quarter break to lead 3-1 deep into the fourth.
With their backs against the wall, the Kiwis rallied and scored two late goals, both Kane Russell bullets from penalty corners, with 6 minutes and 30 seconds to go to claim the hard fought draw.
The New Zealand side, including new talents Kieran O'Connor and Dylan Thomas on debut, seemed to struggle a little with their consistency of ball possession, and will be looking to improve their positioning and movement heading into their next match.
"I thought that today we were a couple of notches off our normal standards", said coach Darren Smith. "There were times we played some nice hockey but also other times we were untidy, gave the ball up and inconsistent in our defence.
"What was pleasing was that we were 3-1 down with seven to go and we were able to get a point out of the match with a spirited fightback".
The Vantage Black Sticks will play Japan again tomorrow, in the second game of the four game series, at 7pm NZ time.
CLICK HERE for more on the Black Sticks tour of Japan and India including the full itinerary
CLICK HERE for details of the the full Vantage Black Sticks Men's touring squad
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS: 3 (Dominic Newman 12', Kane Russell 52' and 60')
JAPAN: 3 (Kenta Tanaka 16', 45' and Kazuma Murata 46')
Half Time: 1:1