Black Sticks can top Champions Trophy group after draw with the Netherlands

MEMORABLE RESULT: Black Sticks captain Anita Punt was proud of her team-mates after a 1-1 draw with the world's No 1 ...
WARWICK SMITH/ Fairfax NZ

MEMORABLE RESULT: Black Sticks captain Anita Punt was proud of her team-mates after a 1-1 draw with the world's No 1 ranked side, the Netherlands.

The women's Black Sticks could end up topping their group at the Champions Trophy after securing a gritty 1-1 draw with world No 1 the Netherlands yesterday.

New Zealand are in a strong position after two games, sitting first equal in their pool with the Dutch.

If they can beat China in their final group match tomorrow [10am NZ time] and rack up the goals, they could finish top and face the fourth team from the other pool in the quarterfinals.

The Black Sticks produced a resilient defensive effort in the Argentine city of Mendoza against the reigning World Cup and Olympic champions.

With only three players missing from their successful World Cup squad, the Dutch were heavy favourites leading into the contest.

New Zealand skipper Anita Punt praised her team-mates after the game and said it was a memorable result.

"It was a really gutsy effort from the girls. It would have been nice to get the win, but we'll always take a draw against the Dutch.

"[The young players] stepped up really well, especially Michaela Curtis up front. She got in there and didn't take a backward step."

Canterbury striker Olivia Merry earned a draw for the Kiwis, scoring her second goal in as many games.

She netted 20 seconds into the final quarter, showing quick reflexes from a pass into the circle from provincial team-mate Pippa Hayward.

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Merry sent the ball into the top right hand corner giving the Dutch goalkeeper little chance.

The Netherlands had the better scoring opportunities during the game, being awarded five penalty corners to New Zealand's one.

New Zealand defended stoically throughout the match with 20-year-old goalkeeper Georgia Barnett, in just her seventh test, making several saves.

Punt said it was an impressive showing from Barnett, who showed she belonged at the elite level.

"She did awesome. It's her first major international tournament. She did really great."

Netherlands' lone goal came from a penalty corner in the second quarter when Caia van Maasakker delivered a hard flick to the bottom left corner of the goal.

Black Sticks' coach Mark Hager would have been thrilled with his side's commitment on defence. The Netherlands scored 23 goals in seven games at June's World Cup, but struggled to take advantage of their attacking chances.

New Zealand were unlucky not to be handed a penalty stroke in the second quarter after a bad tackle on Curtis in the goal circle.

They were awarded a penalty corner, but Punt sent her attempt to the right of the goal.

In the other game in the group yesterday, China and Japan drew 1-1.

AT A GLANCE

New Zealand 1 (Olivia Merry 46) Netherlands 1 (Caia van Maasakker 28)

 - The Press

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