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Commonwealth Hockey: Mark Knowles ends with gold as New Zealand take women’s bounty

New Zealand celebrate gold in the women’s final (PIC: www.photosport.nz)

By The Hockey Paper

Mark Knowles began the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in style, carrying the Australian flag into the Opening Ceremony.

And Australia’s hockey captain ended it on a high note as he led his country to a sixth straight Commonwealth Games gold medal with a 2-0 win over Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre on Saturday.

The win was the perfect way for Knowles to finish his glittering career, bowing out with four Commonwealth Games gold medals from Melbourne, Delhi, Glasgow and the Gold Coast. The global king with a stick.

“It was a beautiful night, I couldn’t have scripted it. The boys did so well and I am so proud,” said Knowles, whose only blemish was to miss a final quarter penalty stroke.

“I looked up at the clock a couple of times after the stroke and thought the boys were going to back me up this time and they did.

“That’s what every leader wants to see, their team perform and act like that under pressure in front of an amazing crowd.

“I made a really strong point before the game, the team has earned the right to be here, but they haven’t earned the right to win just yet, and now they have.”

Both gold medal games were Trans-Tasman affairs, with the Australian men gaining the ascendancy when Aaron Kleinschmidt scored a clever goal 21 minutes into the contest.

Matthew Dawson doubled the lead soon after, with a driving penalty corner shot making it 2-0 as Australia threatened to pull away from the Black Sticks.

In the second half, retiring captain Mark Knowles had the opportunity to put himself on the scoresheet, but missed a penalty stroke in his final game of international hockey.

It did not matter though, as the Kookaburras ran out comfortable 2-0 winners to earn a sixth straight Commonwealth Games title.

In the men’s bronze medal game, England beat India 2-1 with Sam Ward the star with both goals for his country.

Sam Ward notches another celebration (PIC: Grant Treeby)

Ward has been England’s goal-hungry forward all tournament as the win ended the Commonwealth career of Barry Middleton.

“These players are all evolving as a team and I’m obviously the old man hanging on,” he said.

“These are definitely my last Commonwealth Games, it’ll be tough to put this body through another one of these.”

Earlier in the day, New Zealand’s women beat Australia 4-1 to win their first ever Commonwealth Games hockey gold medal.

Midfielders Stacey Michelsen and Anita McLaren were outstanding, with the two 300-gamers guiding their side to a memorable win.

McLaren said: “We kept the belief in the group, and we did our processes and the simple things really well. Our defence stepped up like we wanted them to and today we actually scored the goals, so full credit to our strikers.”

England claimed the bronze medal with a dominant 6-0 victory over India, with Sophie Bray scoring a hat-trick.

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