FIH Pro League 2020: New Zealand’s Olivia Merry became the Black Sticks women’s all-time top scorer by netting all of her team’s goals in a superb 4-1 FIH Hockey Pro League victory over Belgium on Sunday, while Australian and Belgium men were also winners on match day 10. The women’s meeting between Australia and Great Britain was cancelled due to torrential rain and thunderstorms in Sydney. This is ther second cancellation after the US and the Netherlands women’s game was cancelled following the death of Olympian Larry Amar last month.
In Auckland, the Black Sticks women gained a measure of revenge against Belgium after suffering a 2-1 defeat against the lower ranked Europeans in Auckland on Saturday. The Red Panthers were in the lead for most of the first two quarters thanks to Abi Raye’s 7th minute field goal, but Merry – who top scored in the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League with 15 goals in 16 matches – showed exactly why she is one of the most feared strikers on the planet, scoring twice in both the third and fourth quarters to give the hosts their first points of the 2020 edition, becoming New Zealand women’s all-time top scorer in the process.
“I guess it’s good to back up a not so good performance yesterday”, said Merry, who now has 106 international goals, one more than former Black Sticks teammate Anita McLaren. “I guess it [the record] hasn’t really sunk in. I’m all about the team, and lucky in a lot of instances to be the last one to put the ball in the back of the net. I’ve got a fantastic team behind me.”
Belgium’s women may have been defeated, but the men’s team continued its scintillating start to the 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League season, defeating New Zealand for a second time in two days to make it 11 points from a possible twelve in the its opening four matches on foreign soil. The world number one ranked team opened up a two-goal lead ahead of half time thanks to second quarter strikes from Alexander Hendrickx and Sebastien Dockier before New Zealand captain Blair Tarrant’s close range finish four minutes after half time gave the Black Sticks, much improved from Saturday’s 6-2 defeat, hope of staging a comeback. However, a brilliant penalty corner strike from Tanguy Cosyns seven minutes from the end put the result beyond all doubt.
Player of the Match Arthur Van Doren said: “It’s always a tough game [against New Zealand]. A good game, six points, which is what we came for, so I’m pretty happy to go away with six points. We were a bit sloppy with some of our goal-scoring chances, so we’ll have to look at that, and gave them too many chances as well. There is always a lot to improve, and I’m pretty sure the staff will analyse it and we will see everything.”
At Sydney’s Olympic Park, Australia men claimed their first outright win of the competition with a comprehensive 5-1 triumph over Great Britain, adding three points to the two they claimed in Saturday’s bonus point win over GB to make it a fruitful Pro League weekend for the Kookaburras. Dylan Wotherspoon’s first quarter strike was cancelled out early in the second period by a fierce penalty corner drag-flick from GB’s Luke Taylor, before Lachlan Sharp and Tom Craig netted put the hosts 3-1 up at the break. Tim Brand touched home a fourth after good work from Aran Zalewski before Trent Mitton fired into an empty net with five minutes remaining.
“We spoke about our intent and tempo, which was probably a little bit down in our first couple of games this season against Belgium but we bounced back, lifted the tempo and I think it probably showed”, said Player of the Match Tom Craig. “What you want out of the first couple of weeks of competition is really good, hard competition to see where you are at so you can bench-mark your training. Tokyo is not too far away, so we want to know where we are at so we can work on that.”
Due to torrential rain and thunderstorms in Sydney, the Australia versus Great Britain women’s match was abandoned at half time. A penalty corner from Anna Toman early in the second quarter had established a 1-0 lead for Great Britain before inclement weather intervened, forcing a long delay before the eventual completion of the period. However, worsening conditions eventually left the pitch unplayable and therefore unable to resume, forcing the cancellation of the contest. Under article 7.1 of the FIH Hockey Pro League regulations, the result of Saturday’s meeting between the two teams – a 2-1 win for Australia – is now worth double points.
FIH Hockey Pro League
Match Day 10 – Sunday 02 February 2020
North Harbour Hockey Stadium, Auckland (New Zealand)
Women’s result: New Zealand 4, Belgium 1
Player of the Match: Olivia Merry (Belgium)
Men’s result: New Zealand 1, Belgium 3
Player of the Match: Arthur Van Doren (Belgium)
Sydney Olympic Park (Australia)
Men’s result: Australia 5, Great Britain 1
Player of the Match: Tom Craig (Australia)
Australia versus Great Britain (women) Match cancelled