The New Zealand women’s hockey will play for a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games after their thrilling 2-1 shoot-out victory over England in the semi-finals tonight.
It was an absorbing game in which saw both sides produce 60 minutes of top-shelf hockey after which nothing separated them at fulltime.
Though goalkeeper Sally Rutherford had played an impressive match during regulation time, coach Mark Hager made the decision to put on a fresh Grace O’Hanlon for the deciding shoot-out.
O’Hanlon then made four remarkable saves with Hannah Martin the only English player able to beat her.
Sam Harrison scored to put things on level terms going into the final shot, which captain Stacey Michelsen calmly buried into the back of the net.
New Zealand now move on to the gold medal game against Australia on Saturday.
The result breaks a heartbreaking run of defeats in recent major matches for the women’s team:
2010: Reached Commonwealth Games final in Delhi, then were denied gold when they lost to Australia on penalty strokes.
2012: Missed out on a place in the final of the London Olympics when they were beaten in the semi-finals by the Netherlands in a shootout after scores were level at 2-2 at fulltime. To rub salt into the wound, they were denied the bronze medal when they lost 3-1 to Great Britain.
2014: Squandered the chance to make the Glasgow Commonwealth Games final when they were beaten in a shootout by England after it was 1-1 at fulltime. They then beat South Africa to claim the bronze medal.
2016: Lost to Great Britain 3-0 in Rio Olympics semi-final and then lost 2-1 to Germany to miss out on even a bronze medal.
Hager wasn’t able to watch the final stages of the shoot-out, which he described as “heart pumping”.
“I had to turn away and I couldn’t watch the final shot. I was just too tense,” he said.
“Grace was brilliant. She kept us alive and ignited our players in the shoot-out. I also want to praise Sally who was outstanding and really kept us in the game under huge pressure.
“For Stacey to come in and win the game I thought was very fitting. I’m just so pleased for her and very proud of how she always puts her hand up with the mindset ‘I’m going to get this done’.”
O’Hanlon said her homework paid off during the shoot-out. It seemed she knew exactly where each England player was looking to go.
“I did my homework and scouting very thoroughly, but I also just went out there wanting to play my game and rely on my instincts.
“Shoot-outs are a specific skill of mine. I’m a big unit and pretty quick. Huge credit to Sally too, as she’s yet to concede a goal and is an amazing keeper. I was happy to play my role.”
Gold Coast 2018 Delhi 2010 Glasgow 2014 Rio 2016 London 2012 Commonwealth Games Olympic Summer Games Sally Rutherford Mark Hager Grace O'Hanlon Sam Harrison Stacey Michelsen Hockey