By The Hockey Paper at Twickenham Stoop
Great Britain women ended their trying Pro League campaign with a morale-boosting win over New Zealand at The Stoop on Sunday.
Goals from Hannah Martin and a fine double from Lily Owsley proved too much for the Commonwealth champions, while a much-needed victory came at just the right time for Mark Hager’s side ahead of an important few months for the OIympic champions.
GB ultimately finished at the bottom end of the table, but this win showed that they are a team on the move with Hager’s new regime having taken time to bed in.
Their 3-1 victory ended a thoroughly memorable double header day for GB hockey – where the men qualified for the Grand Finals – in front of around 12,000 spectators in Twickenham.
The double home win left the paying punters in celebratory mood, a crucial factor in maintaining the support for next year’s tournament.
The second part of this GB-Kiwi encounter started at a fairly sedate pace before shifting through the gears as the match wore on.
It was Izzy Petter who caused some early scares in the Kiwi circle, while goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon had to be on her guard at several junctures.
New Zealand thought that they had taken the lead when GB failed to clear a PC at the second attempt as the ball was squeezed past Maddie Hinch. But like most goals these days, it was taken upstairs for a referral and the goal was disallowed.
There was no denying Britain their chance to take the lead minutes later as Owsley hurtled down to the baseline in the Kiwi circle, her cross causing panic and Martin bundled home.
From provider to goalscorer, Owsley made the Black Sticks pay early in the third quarter when she picked up the ball at the top of the D and shot low past a body of players and goalkeeper Sally Rutherford. Her second came via a switch PC and Owsley hit high into the net.
Olivia Merry then handed the Kiwis some respite just before the end of the third quarter, while Giselle Ansley was denied in the final quarter as Rutherford’s outstretched stick denied her GB’s fourth.
The Kiwis did find the net with 90 seconds left from a low PC, but the ball didn’t leave the circle.
Great Britain will now disband for the summer (after a trip to Japan in July for a six-match series) as the home nations enter the European tournaments.
For England, the EuroHockey Championships represent an important week in Antwerp.
Win that and they will qualify for the Olympics – but the likelihood is that Great Britain will play for an Olympic qualification place in the autumn.