Supplied Content –
The Vantage Black Sticks women have retained the Hawke’s Bay Cup by defeating Japan three nil in the final match of the 2017 Vantage Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey played in Hastings, New Zealand on Sunday, April 9, 2017.
New Zealand was the top qualifier from pool play with 3 wins from their 6 matches. Japan also had 3 wins but had lost 3 games to finish two points behind in second place. This year’s final was a repeat of 2016 where the Black Sticks beat Japan 2-1.
The Black Sticks were on the scoreboard in the fifth minute when Rachel McCann beat the keeper with a great shot. They were unlucky not to be two up, after Kirsten Pearce had a goal disallowed when the umpires ruled the ball had hit a foot on its way into the net.
The second half was punctuated by tenacious defence from both sides as they went searching for a goal.
Japan lost Mami Ichitani to a leg injury in the 35th minute.
Japan pushed forward in search of the equaliser and Black Sticks Keeper Sally Rutherford was called into action on a number of occasions.
She saved two cracking shots that were shoulder height and goalward bound by pushing the ball wide. Then she did enough to scramble the ball clear to avert the danger from a penalty corner.
The match was decided in the Black Sticks favour when they scored two goals in the 57th minute.
The first went to Rose Keddell who placed a reverse stick shot high into the left-hand corner of the Japan goal and then captain Olivia Merry got on the scoresheet when a cross from the left side wasn’t dealt with by the Japan defence and she pushed the ball into the goal.
The Black Sticks are the first team to win the Vantage Hawke’s Bay Cup twice in its four- year history.
Half time score: Vantage Black Sticks 1 Japan 0
Final score: Vantage Black Sticks 3 (Rachel McCann, Rose Keddell, Olivia Merry) Japan 0
2017 final placings: Vantage Black Sticks 1st, Japan 2nd, Australia 3rd, USA 4th
Photo:New Zealand had a clean finish against Japan
(Photos courtesy Ned Dawson/Vantage Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey)