The Black Sticks Men have drawn their final game against India 1-1 in Christchurch – a game that head coach Colin Batch said was their best performance of the 2015 South Island Tour.
After a scoreless first half, the action was in the third quarter when Nick Ross scored for New Zealand with Sunil Sowmarpet finding the equaliser moments later.
“I thought we played pretty well. In the areas that we have been working on there has been good progress. I think it was our best performance even though we did not win the game. India tested us and we overcame those challenges well. Hence, a lot of positives have come out of the game but of course the game is about winning and we did not do well,” Batch said.
The team are well aware of the focus required over the next ten days ahead of the 2015 Oceania Cup (October 21-25) in Taranaki.
Australia Men and Women, Samoa Men and Women and Fiji Men will also be competing in the continental event.
The Black Sticks Women have already qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, however the Black Sticks Men should topple World No1 Australia at the 2015 Oceania Cup to book their berth.
“This time in two weeks, we will be lining up for the final (Oceania Cup) game, we have just played four games in a short amount of time and it is demanding for the players, so we will rest up over the next few days and refocus. There are a lot of positives to take from this tour – it has been good preparation,” Batch said.
In the first half, both teams played clinical hockey with local Black Stick Brad Shaw playing a blinder in defence and making it difficult for the skilful Indian side to enter the circle.
A dangerous tackle in the 22nd minute meant Shaw was yellow-carded, but it did not appear to affect the Black Sticks as they rallied together for the remainder of the half.
Despite a nil-all score line at half time, it was an exciting 30 minutes of hockey with both sides creating opportunities and playing at high intensity throughout.
The Kiwis finally made it count in the 41st minute when Nick Ross intercepted a ball in their attacking third, passed to Nick Wilson who dribbled it into the circle, passing back to Ross who tapped it in.
It was only two minutes later that India found the equaliser through Sunil Sowmarpet, the Black Sticks defenders caught unaware in a goalmouth scramble as the ball rolled over the line.
The Black Sticks were awarded a penalty corner with just a couple of minutes on the clock but luck didn’t go the Kiwis way and Ryan Archibald’s deflection went just wide of the post.
The Black Sticks Men finish the series with one win, one draw and two losses.
| The Results
Full time: 1-1
Half time: 0-0
NZ goal scorers: Nick Ross
India goal scorer: Sunil Sowmarpet
Black Sticks men celebrate with Nick Ross, Photo Sport picture sent by Hockey New Zealand