Frustrated Black Sticks rue missed chances
New Zealand's reward for finishing bottom in their Champions Trophy pool is a quarterfinal tomorrow against a Dutch side that showed signs of vulnerability during their final pool game against neighbours Belgium in Melbourne yesterday.
The Netherlands finished top of pool A to draw the Black Sticks and although the New Zealanders could not record a victory in three games, the world's No.3 ranked nation were not entirely convincing in beating the Belgians 5-4.
A late penalty stroke made the game safe but they still conceded on the final play of an entertaining encounter.
Like the remainder of the sport's leading nations at the annual tournament, the Dutch are in rebuild mode as they plan to improve on the silver they secured at London 2012 when the next Olympics are held in Rio de Janeiro.
The Dutch offence is functioning - eight goals were only one shy of the number surprise packets India tallied in pool A - though their defensive system is exploitable.
Whether the Black Sticks are capable of capitalising on lapses is debatable but they have managed five goals themselves including Phil Burrows' equalising strike against England yesterday.
New Zealand's creditable 1-1 draw followed losses to Olympic champions Germany and India, who needed a wildcard to compete and ended up topping the group.
The new-look coaching staff headed by Colin Batch was pleased to secure a point but felt a win was within their grasp.
"We created enough chances to win the game, and win well. We just need that finesse in the attacking third," said assistant coach Bryce Collins.
Simon Child went closest to drawing the Black Sticks level after Mark Gleghorne's 11th minute opener but his slap past stranded goalkeeper George Pinner was deflected clear by alert defender Michael Hoare midway through the first half.
Sloppy ball control and wayward passing initially conspired against New Zealand and once they gathered momentum their penalty corner work also proved ineffectual.
They forced three set pieces in the opening 40 minutes but Pinner was never stressed - embarrassingly the Black Sticks final attempt on the stroke of halftime disintegrated when the ball wasn't trapped cleanly at the top of the circle.
Collins, a former New Zealand international, admitted the squad was still getting to grips with converting penalty corners in the absence of drag flick specialists Andy Hayward and Richard Petherick.
"We haven't had a lot of time with the group, it's not an excuse but we've got to work on penalty corners and do the basics of that well,"Collins said.
Although New Zealand were off target in dead ball situations they finally strung together a telling move in the dying stages when Jenness, who played despite suffering a nasty hand injury against India, probed down the left flank before belting a cross to Burrows, who deflected it home with the coolness of a 289-game veteran.
Collins commended Jenness for his bravery in fronting up.
"The hand looked a bit of mess to begin with but he's been up all night icing it and he got a very swollen hand back to the point where he was able to play.
"Stephen put on a pretty critical play in the grand scheme of things. He showed a great turn of acceleration and a beautiful ball in for Phil."
In tomorrow's other quarterfinals Australia play England, India take on Belgium and the Germans strive to relegate Pakistan to the minor placings.
England 1 (Mark Gleghorne 11) New Zealand 1 (Phil Burrows 72) Halftime: 1-0