Black Sticks men win in golden goal extra time
New Zealand has avoided the ignominy of finishing last at the Champions Trophy men's hockey tournament by beating fellow also-rans England 3-2 in golden goal extra time in Melbourne today.
Nick Wilson's critical nudge from a penalty corner earned with less than two minutes remaining in the first period of extra time enabled the Black Sticks to finish seventh.
It was a satisfying end to an otherwise frustrating competition for the New Zealanders who suffered losses to Olympic champions Germany and India in pool play before exiting the medal race in the quarter-finals when losing 2-0 to the Netherlands.
A 6-4 loss to Germany in yesterday's classification game was another bitter blow after they led 2-0 at halftime but beating England - the team they drew 1-1 with in their final group match - at least enabled an understrength squad to finish on a high note.
Wilson supplied the decisive goal but midfielder Steve Edwards deserved the kudos after earning a penalty corner with a stunning incision that side-stepped four defenders before he clipped the ball onto an opponent's boot to gift New Zealand just their second set piece of the game.
New Zealand risked ending their campaign on a sour note when England captain Barry Middleton put the world's No 4-ranked nation in front with 13 minutes remaining but Wilson drew the Kiwis level with a rasping backhand slap from the top of the circle to set up a dramatic finale.
Two-test rookie Devon Manchester made two important saves with his feet as England pressed forward but it was the Black Sticks who could have won the match near the end of regulation.
They squandered their first penalty corner three minutes from time when Matt L'Huillier dragged his shot wide; Simon Child then forced a sharp save from George Pinner but then foolishly handled the ball.
Child's yellow card left the Black Sticks a man down at the start of extra time but they handled the imposition well and ended a free-flowing encounter with a numerical advantage when Nick Catlin was green-carded for an infringement.
It was an unhappy outing for Catlin, who initiated the Black Sticks opening goal with an injudicious back pass in the 19th minute.
Stephen Jenness, soldiering on despite suffering a hand injury in game two against India, combined with Phil Burrows after intercepting Catlin pass to put the Black Sticks in front though the goal hardly justified their domination.
In a mirror image of their previous matches a superior number of circle penetrations were not reflected on the scoreboard as inferior finishing or inaccurate final transfers conspired against them.
New Zealand's inability to convert pressure left them vulnerable to an equaliser and three minutes before the break Darren Cheesman slotted it after holding Blair Hopping, Burrows and Alex Shaw at bay before slashing the ball past Manchester.
By failing to finish inside the top five New Zealand must now rely on securing one of two wildcards to be granted by the International Hockey Federation in order to compete when Argentina hosts the next Champions Trophy in 2014.
New Zealand 3 (Stephen Jenness 19, Nick Wilson 61, 76) England 2 (Darren Cheesman 32, Barry Middleton 57) Halftime: 1-1