Netherlands snatch draw against Black Sticks
A win and a draw have given New Zealand's hockey teams a successful start to the World League semifinal games in Rotterdam this morning (NZT).
While the women beat India 7-0, the Netherlands rallied from two goals down early in the second half, to fight back and grab a 3-all draw with the Black Sticks men.
The Dutch, who won silver at last year's Olympic Games in London and are ranked third in the world, were heavily favoured leading into the game, in front of their home crowd.
They appeared to be in major trouble early in the second half, however, when Black Sticks' striker Jacob Smith scored 15 minutes into the half, after a great earlier run down the baseline from Shay Neal to give New Zealand a 3-1 lead.
The Netherlands are one of the best men's hockey sides in the world for a reason, and began to drag themselves back into the contest.
Jeroen Hertzberger grabbed his second goal of the game, with 15 minutes remaining, firing in a deadly penalty corner shot that left New Zealand goalkeeper Hamish McGregor with no chance.
They were back on level terms shortly after, when Valentin Verga netted in a goalmouth scramble.
With momentum on their side, the Netherlands pushed for the winning goal and finished strongly. They had several chances to clinch the match, but were denied by McGregor and some stoic Black Stick defence.
The Netherlands had 12 shots on goal, compared to just three from New Zealand, but failed to take advantage of their chances in the goal circle.
New Zealand got off to a terrible start to the game when Stephen Jenness was shown a yellow card and given five minutes in the sinbin after tackling a Dutch attacker from behind.
The Netherlands dominated the first half, enjoying 77 per cent of the possession and the better opportunities on attack, but they were unable to translate it into goals.
It was the Black Sticks, who went into halftime with a 2-1 lead, courtesy of two excellent deflection goals from striker Hugo Inglis.
Hertzberger opened the scoring for the Netherlands, after his team was awarded a penalty stroke when Black Sticks' captain Dean Couzins was adjudged to have stopped a goalbound shot with his shoulder.
Inglis then showed lightning quick reflexes with both his goals being deflected in close to the net. The first came from a pass into the goal from Phil Burrows, and the second happened in similar circumstances, when a vicious Burrows' free hit was tapped in by the young Dunedin striker.
After the game, Couzins said he was disappointed the Black Sticks were unable to hold on to their two-goal lead, but believed a draw against the Dutch was a positive way to start the tournament.
The Black Sticks women started their World League semifinal campaign in convincing fashion, with a 7-0 triumph over India.
New Zealand scored four first-half goals, with the first two coming from Indian own-goals.
After a quiet start to the second half, New Zealand struck the back of the net three more times, to cap off a pleasing first game.
Katie Glynn scored twice for New Zealand, with Charlotte Harrison, Krystal Forgesson and Sian Fremaux also getting on the scoresheet.
Tomorrow, the women are back in action against Germany, while the men take on Ireland.
The World League semifinal tournament is an important one, with places up for grabs at the final tournament in Argentina in December, and spots at next year's World Cup also on the line.