Broken Sticks close to wooden-spooner status

STRUGGLING: Simon Child hangs his head as the Black Sticks men suffer another defeat at the Champions Trophy.
STRUGGLING: Simon Child hangs his head as the Black Sticks men suffer another defeat at the Champions Trophy.

A second-half capitulation has put the men's Black Sticks at risk of collecting the wooden spoon from the Champions Trophy today.

Two-nil up against weakened Olympic and world champions Germany at halftime, yesterday Colin Batch's side conceded six goals in the second 35 minutes to go down 6-4 and be relegated to this afternoon's seventh-place playoff against England.

The loser of the match will walk away from the prestigious Melbourne tournament in last place.

The Black Sticks will be kicking themselves for letting a number of decent scoring opportunities go against the Germans - chances which would have put them three or four-nil up and in with a chance of finishing fifth in the tournament.

Post-match, midfielder Shae McAleese said his side's defensive performance was simply not good enough.

"To ship six goals in one half of hockey is just not good enough," he said.

"We need to look a bit at ourselves, the way we defended in that half, because it was pretty poor to be honest.

"The first half, yeah probably [there were positives]. But second half not so much, we've got to get ourselves up for the game against England. When you come to this tournament you don't want to finish last. It will be a big game for us again."

Veteran Phil Burrows opened the scoring in the seventh minute with an acute reverse-stick shot and when Nick Wilson doubled the lead at the half-hour mark with a brilliant deflected touch, things were looking good for New Zealand, who had a chance to restore some sheen to a disappointing, and so-far-winless tournament.

From the right flank Simon Child fizzed a tomahawk cross into the attacking circle, which Wilson ran onto, then evaded his marker and glanced past German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi.

But Wilson was one of a handful of players guilty of failing to make it three thereafter, missing from close range six minutes after restart. And the Germans made the Black Sticks pay.

An excellent goal from Marco Miltkau with half an hour remaining saw the German receive the ball halfway into the shooting circle, complete a full pirouette to shake his markers and shoot past Kiwi keeper Hamish McGregor.

Less than two minutes later captain Mats Grambusch drew the Germans level with a semi-scrambled goal.

To New Zealand's credit, Stephen Jenness restored the lead in the 50th minute, converting a well-executed penalty corner.

Jenness injected the ball, and after a Black Sticks dummy, received the ball back at the near post and tucked home.

However, Germany equalised immediately with a penalty corner of their own, Tobias Matania dispatching a low drag flick beyond McGregor.

From there, things only got worse for the Black Sticks as a well-taken Miltkau goal in the 60th minute put Germany ahead for the first time in the match, and then a stunning solo effort from Jan Christopher Ruehr followed immediately, skipping past two Black Sticks defenders and firing a powerful reverse-stick shot into the net to make it 5-3.

With seven minutes left, Nick Haig got one back for New Zealand with a lofted shot into the top right corner, but with Black Sticks coach Colin Batch subbing McGregor for another outfield player in an attempt to force extra time, Ruehr made it 6-4 with a shot into an unguarded net.

The result puts pressure on Batch in his first tournament since taking the Black Sticks helm from Shane McLeod, following a poor Olympics in London.

Last year, McLeod steered the Black Sticks to fourth in the Champions Trophy on home soil.

Meanwhile, the women's Black Sticks thumped India 7-2 in the first game of a six-test series in Napier. Striker Katie Glynn headed the attack with a hat-trick.

Sunday Star Times