It was daytime hockey for the first time in the Sentinel Homes Trans-Tasman series in Palmerston North this afternoon, but sadly for Vantage Black Sticks fans the series was still without a win for the home sides.
In the first-up women’s clash, a much improved effort from the Black Sticks in the second half gave the Manawatū crowd hope of a home side victory after two earlier draws but it wasn’t to be with a late Australian goal leaving the final score at 2-2.
Meanwhile the Kookaburras collected their third of the series 4-2 with probably their best performance in front of the sold out crowd of around 1800 at the new Massey University turf.
Vantage Black Sticks Men’s Head Coach Darren Smith said Australia was clearly the better team today.
“They dominated possession and we fed off scraps. We managed to get a couple of goals to put us back in the match but we let them score goals off our mistakes.”
The Kookaburras got off to a flier of a start with two goals in the first eight minutes. The first was an easy tap in from Trent Mitton who was left un-marked in front of goal after a strong Australian counter-attack. The second saw Jeremy Hayward get his drag flick penalty corner past his brother Leon for 2-0.
While Australia were down to nine players, Kane Russell clawed one back for the home side with a perfectly positioned penalty corner drag flick into the bottom left corner. But within a minute Australia had restored their two goal lead after Blake Govers converted a penalty stroke won by Lachlan Sharp.
And just before the half-time break, Oliver MacIntyre scored his first goal for his country with a cracking drag flick to leave the halftime score at 3-2 to the Kookaburras.
A nice Nathan Ephraums touch gave the Kookaburras a 4-2 lead in a dominant third quarter, and they retained that lead until the final whistle.
Kookaburras 4 (Trent Mitton 7 min, Jeremy Hayward 8 min, Blake Govers (penalty stroke) 20 min, Nathan Ephraums 36 min) Vantage Black Sticks 2 (Kane Russell 20 min, Oliver MacIntyre 26 min) Halftime: 3-2 Australia.
Meanwhile in the women’s series, Tuesday night’s final test will be a winner takes all affair after another drawn match today.
The Hockeyroos rested the experienced and in-form trio of Edwina Bone, Jane Claxton and Stephanie Kershaw for today’s third match in the series.
But that didn’t hinder their start as they took an early lead with Maddy Fitzpatrick firing in a penalty corner into the top right corner.
Midway through the second spell Julia King equalised for the home side with a reverse shot from the top of the circle after a lovely through pass from captain Stacey Michelsen. Despite a few Black Sticks missed opportunities, the teams went into the halftime break all square at 1-1.
The biggest cheer of the day came in the third quarter when experienced defender Ella Gunson latched on to a rebound from an Olivia Merry penalty corner strike to give the home side a 2-1 lead.
With just two minutes to go, Rosie Malone grabbed the equaliser breaking the Black Sticks and home crowd’s hearts.
Vantage Black Sticks 2 (Julia King 23 min, Ella Gunson 41 min) Hockeyroos 2 (Maddy Fitzpatrick 7 min, Rosie Malone 58 min) Halftime: 1-1.
The fourth and final matches in the series are on Tuesday at 5.30pm for the women and 7.30pm for the men.