Japan holds Black Sticks men to a 2-2 draw

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 21:36 12/03/2014

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The Black Sticks' men have drawn 2-2 with Japan in the opening game of their three game series.

New Zealand scored the first two goals of the game played in Tauranga tonight and led 2-1 at halftime before Japan battled back to equalise from a Manabu Hatakeyama penalty corner shot right on fulltime.

Head coach Colin Batch said it was disappointing to allow Japan to equalise, but that there were lots of positives to come out of the game.

"I thought we played well in the second half, we created a number of chances, but didn't take them. We had an error at the end and conceded at the wrong time," Batch said.

"I was happy with our structure and pressure on Japan in the second half. They defended very well, but we had five or six chances and should've scored.''

Earlier, the Black Sticks celebrated Marcus Child's 50th test cap and opened the game with all the possession going their way, creatign several chances on attack.

It took just seven minutes until Steve Edwards lit up the scoreboard after eliminating two defenders and drilling a reverse shot into the back of the goal.

Stephen Jenness made it 2-0 less than 10 minutes later with a similar cutting run into the circle before beating the Japanese goalkeeper on the reverse from a tight angle.

Ippei Fujimoto put Japan on the scoreboard with a field goal against the run of play midway through the first half, with the score remaining 2-1 at halftime.

In an open second half, both sides produced some fast flowing hockey but couldn't crack each other's defence. The Black Sticks had three penalty corner attempts but weren't able to add to their lead.

With three minutes remaining Japan took their goalkeeper off and with an extra field player managed to win a penalty corner. Hatakeyama's low sweep beat Devon Manchester in goal with the game ending a draw.

The Black Sticks are back in action for game two of the three game series tomorrow night at 7pm.

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