Sunday, August 16, 2009


HOCKEY: Deflation after draw

The orchestrated movement in and out of the hut was up there with the professional models on the catwalk.

The Black Sticks looked slick in that deprtment last night in the fourth hockey test in Napier as a microphone-equipped coach Shane McLeod barked instructions and whispered crucial messages to his players.

``Patience'', ``Recycle the lead'', ``We need some width there'' were some of the audible ones.

But those in the know will tell you, whether it's modelling, theatre or sports the flow, as they say, always boils down to keeping one's shape and momentum on the stage at all times.

Unfortunately the Black Sticks didn't at the Kelt Capital Hockey Stadium. When the final hooter went a sense of deflation in the 2-all draw was obvious. As the drenched Sticks trudged back to the hut, someone kicked the fence in anger while another smacked his stick in frustration.

Yes, the Kiwis had won the war - an unassailable 2-nil lead in the five-match series with one test to play in Taupo tomorrow at 1.30pm - but they had lost last night's battle.

McLeod agreed the nailbiter was a great spectacle for the raincoat-wearing and umbrella-toting fans who braved the rain but it was far from champagne in the build-up to the Oceania qualifiers against Australia later this month.

``They [Malaysia] did some things quite well and we struggled,'' the former director of the Kelt Capital Hawke's Bay Hockey Academy told SportToday as the tourists carded a second stalemate.

New Zealand drew first blood in just the third minute from Andy Hayward penalty corner drag flick.

But the Malaysians, who had an aura of timidity about them, showed tenacity in a wave of counter attacks which paid dividends when centre forward Selvaraju Sandrakasi put one past goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex in the 19th minute.

But captain Phil Burrows traded passes with Ryan Archibald to go up up 2-1 in the 28th minute before defender Muhammad Amin Rahim levelled terms five minutes later.

In the second half the vistors relished their position despite Simon Child's call to ``put your foot on their throats, boys''. The Sticks came close with a couple of drag flicks sailing over the crossbar but the tranquil Malayasia defenders, backed by a couple of outstanding saves from the keeper, absorbed the hosts' aggression.

Archibald exchanged expletives with Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai, prompting tournament director Stuart Ashby to caution both camps.

``We're here to train with New Zealand who are ranked higher than us and we hope to prepare them for the Oceania,'' said Hai, finding it cold but welcoming the rain.

In the Sticks' case, if they are to reign over the Aussies they must improve