Black Sticks outclassed by Netherlands
New Zealand exited the medal race at hockey's Champions Trophy in Melbourne today after being outclassed by the Netherlands 2-0 during the quarterfinal stage.
The London Olympic Games silver medallists and world No.3 were too clinical for the Black Sticks who were dominated for large tracts of the contest by an opponent that also ended their medal hopes in the play-off for bronze when the tournament was held in New Zealand last year.
In a repeat of their pool play misadventures at the State Hockey Centre, a rebuilding New Zealand men's side were unable to convert their scant scoring opportunities as a Dutch defence, exposed during a 5-4 win over Belgium in the final round of the group stage on Tuesday, proved impregnable.
The Netherlands advance to the Trophy semifinals for the 24th consecutive year while New Zealand confront a classification match on Saturday with Olympic champions Germany, who were upset 2-1 by Pakistan in the opening quarterfinal.
Germany, also in rebuild mode after defending their Olympic title in London, beat New Zealand 3-2 in their opening pool game.
New Zealand started promisingly by earning a penalty corner in the second minute but once the threat was cleared the Dutch assumed control of possession and territory.
That domination finally translated to a lead in the 12th minute when Jeroen Hertzberger converted their second penalty corner with a scorching drag flick that whizzed by Hamish McGregor.
Nick Wilson and Simon Child combined to make some promising incisions and the latter was left to rue a missed opportunity to equalise six minutes after the Black Sticks trailed.
Wilson then went perilously close to scoring against the run of play three minutes from the break via the Black Sticks second and final penalty corner but his strike flashed centimetres past the left hand post.
Rookie international McGregor was instrumental in keeping the margin to a solitary goal at halftime as the Dutch peppered his goal but 10 minutes after the resumption he could not prevent Dutch captain Billy Bakker producing the finish a Sander de Wijn break deserved.
De Wijn surged into the circle and despite overbalancing he directed a perfect cross for Bakker to slot home.
Bakker was denied a second three minutes from time when McGregor's sharp reactions enabled him to palm a goal bound reverse stick slap clear - one of 10 shots on the Kiwi goal.
In contrast New Zealand only had two attempts on target while another telling stat underscored the Netherland's iron-clad grip - they made 33 circle penetrations to the Black Sticks 17.
Sixth-ranked New Zealand is yet to win at the tournament - a 1-1 draw with England in their final pool game stands out alongside losses to Germany, India and now the Dutch.
The Netherlands 2 (Jeroen Hertzberger, Billy Bakker)
New Zealand 0