Black Sticks claim gritty win over South Africa
The Black Sticks women's hockey team produced a gritty performance to beat South Africa 2-1 and take control of their pool at the Commonwealth Games today.
It was a crucial top of the table match in Pool A and the performance of both teams reflected that in an end-to-end affair.
Both teams scored from penalty corners in the first half and New Zealand skipper Kayla Whitelock initiated the decider with a wonderful counterattack finished by Krystal Forgesson in the 17th minute of the second half.
With Australia beating England 3-nil earlier in the day to take control of Pool B, this was a vital win for New Zealand to try to avoid their trans-Tasman rivals in the looming semifinals.
New Zealand wrap up their pool play with a game against Canada on Thursday.
Today's score was a fair reflection of the game with New Zealand earning five penalty corners to South Africa's two. They also had 11 shots at goal compared to South Africa's nine.
It was their inability to convert their penalty corners that kept the game tight.
But Punt did produce a slick drag flick after 12 minutes to find the goal.
New Zealand goalkeeper Sally Rutherford was kept busy and produced a good save towards the end of the second half.
She also managed to deflect South Africa's shot from their first penalty corner, but Tarryn Bright was neatly placed to take that deflection and turn it into a goal to level the scores.
The South Africans threatened with their fast breaks, feeding the ball down to speedy forward Sulette Downs.
New Zealand's attacks were more structured though and it was a fast break from Whitelock that helped break the deadlock.
The veteran midfielder went on a long run down the left flank and pushed the ball to Olivia Merry in the corner who got in a sweet cross for a diving Forgesson to nudge home.
New Zealand, having backed up from yesterday's win over India had to dig deep for the energy levels to hold off the South Africans who had the benefit of a day off.
New Zealand now have three wins to South Africa's two. The Black Sticks have scored 19 goals and conceded just one and now have an edge in goal difference over the South Africans.
In today's other women's matches India trounced Trinidad and Tobago 14-0 and Scotland beat Wales 2-0.