Gold Coast – What an opening script this was. Wales women came from the snow and then turned up the heat in Pool A with their biggest ever victory, a scintillating 3-2 win against India on Thursday.
The part-time Welsh scored a major upset in the hockey tournament opener by being goal clinical amid a barrage of Indian pressure. Fifteen penalty corners and one conversion told the Indian story.
Wales captain Leah Wilkinson said that red pride had contributed to her side’s victory as Natasha Marke-Jones scored a late winner to enter their Friday clash with England in thoroughly high spirits.
“We never gave up. We fought to the end. Passion and pride will get you there in the end,” said Wilkinson. “This is the biggest win we’ve ever had. We knew they were going to hit and play hard.”
India had their chances throughout, courtesy of 25 circle penetrations and 15 penalty corners, but took only two of their creative chances.
The Welsh were leading 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals from Lisa Daley and Sian French before world No 10 India rallied back to 2-2 through skipper Rani and Nikki Pradhan.
Asked what coach Kevin Johnson had told his side at the break, Wilkinson added: “Play our style of game, don’t give up and that there were no expectations on us – India is the higher ranked team.”
🏑Amazing start for Women’s Hockey today, beating India 3-2.
👉 What a day for @izz_howell to make her debut!
— Team Wales 🏴 Tîm Cymru (@TeamWales) April 5, 2018
It took until three minutes from the end for Marke-Jones to steal a late winner, sparking wild scenes from the Welsh bench.
Wilkinson added: “We played Australia in a warm-up match on this field at the same time of the day, in the same heat, and that prepared us well. We’ve come from the snow.”
Harendra Singh, the India coach, paid tribute to Wales goalkeeper Roseanne Thomas for a succession of saves and keeping the scores level in the second half.
He said: “I give credit to the way she played. She did exceptionally well and deserves all the applause she can get for getting three points against us.”
Scotland were then put to the sword by New Zealand, one of the favourites for the title, when they lost 6-1.
The match was played in torrential rain for most of the 60 minutes.