Black Sticks up their game in hard-fought draw

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2013

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New Zealand women's hockey coach Mark Hager has cause for encouragement.

An improved defensive effort and greater discipline led the Black Sticks to a 1-1 draw in the second test against Olympic silver medallists Argentina in the city of Rosario.

Well-beaten 4-1 in the first test on Sunday, New Zealand were much tighter defensively and despite them missing several chances to beat their more accomplished hosts, Hager saw enough to suggest the five-match series against the world's second-ranked team is well and truly alive.

"It was a much improved and more disciplined performance, particularly our penalty corner defence," Hager said.

"We still missed some chances that would have won us the game, but hopefully we can really make the most of our opportunities [tomorrow].

The Black Sticks went behind to an early Noel Barrionuevo penalty stroke but drew level three minutes before halftime through Stacey Michelsen, who took a cracking reverse stick shot, which the goalkeeper initially saved before Michelsen pounced on the rebound. A scoreless second half was characterised by solid defence and the timely return of first-choice goalkeeper Bianca Russell who had not played since the London Olympics.

The third of five matches in the series is tomorrow.

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