Monday, August 15, 2022

Commonwealth Games Hockey: Scotland denied historic win as New Zealand rally in 5-5 epic

Birmingham — This was a tale of two madcap quarters, ending with New Zealand mounting a monumental comeback from 5-1 down to level the match and nearly nick it in the final seconds. The Black Sticks just didn’t give up the chase as one of the great Commonwealth Games matches finished 5-5. 

For 40 minutes, all signs pointed to Scotland men’s greatest night on a hockey pitch. “I can’t remember the last time we ever went 5-1 at half-time,” goalkeeper Tommy Alexander said afterwards. “It was a cracking first-half performance.”

That it was too. The Scottish fans were set to revel on a par with a raucous freshers’ night at the campus pitches here. This after three goals in seven, second-quarter minutes, started by Callum Mackenzie before Jamie and Cam Golden, who also picked two off his own line, had put Scotland 4-0 up.

There was brief respite when Kane Russell pulled one back, but belief was surging through the Scots and Jamie Golden’s second before the break left us leafing through the history books. There was even a Blue Sticks goal ruled out on video referral.

The Black Sticks upped the intensity in the third quarter. Alexander went off for cramp and Sam Lane struck from a corner. Back came Scotland’s No 1 but not even the break could put the Kiwis off their stride. 

They contrived to score four in eight minutes – with the Kiwis pulling their stopper at the start of the final quarter – the next three coming in four hazy minutes for the Scottish backlines as the Black Sticks ran riot, Jake Smith, Hugo Inglis and Sam Hiha – perhaps best summing up the never-say-die fling to this humdinger with a shot on the turn – putting this game level. There were three chances at the death, too.

Five Blue Sticks were on their knees at the final hooter, despite the ranking disparity (New Zealand ninth, Scotland 19th). 

There were also several umpire grievances of the Canadian and Kenyan officials (ball not leaving the circle, penalised for aerial interception).

“I appreciate you have to bring all your umpires but if you are to have an international level tournament, there has to be a point where you ask yourselves whether they are suitable for all the games,” added Alexander.

BIRMINGHAM – Commonwealth Games 2022 02 New Zealand v Scotland (Pool A) Picture: Hugo INGLIS celebrates the 5-5 COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS ADY KERRY

Still, this wasn’t to overshadow Scotland’s peformance here.

“The limited funding that we have, and so many players abroad, that was a gutsy performance, with young guys who will learn on the job,” said Alexander.

Scotland’s coach, Derek Forsyth, said: “We were a wee bit unlucky given the umpires’ managers meeting. It was a great experience for the lads. I’m delighted for them, I just wish we had got the result.

“The guys have worked so hard. We only get to play these kinds of teams once every four years.”

The next test? Australia, the defending champions, on Sunday.

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