Bhubaneswar — Wales qualified for a first Hockey World Cup via a shoot-out. Then they went one better to record an historic first victory after Toby Reynolds-Cotterill proved the hero with three superb saves to deny France in Rourkela. Victory also assured Wales of finishing above their world ranking.
After a 2-2 normal time draw and world No 14 Wales gamely holding on, Reynolds-Cotterill saved France’s opening two efforts with his pads and a diving save to his right before the Paris 2024 hosts went into the sidenetting to give Danny Newcombe’s side the perfect opening.
For Wales, Rupert Shipperley and Ben Francis scored either side of misses from Lewis Prosser and Ben Pritchard. It was pretty tense stuff too after they were denied a goal before the umpire pointed to the stroke as Wales made sure.
Reynolds-Cotterill then denied Baumgarten Gaspard levellling at 2-2 with his final effort as he threw his stick and gloves in the air.
Reynolds-Cotterill paid tribute to his father after victory, after the World Cup qualification win over Ireland was the last time he saw him play for Wales.
“It probably means a little bit more to me, because a year ago yesterday, my father passed away,” he told ESPN.IN.
“He watched every game I ever played. He’d have loved to have been here, he was talking about it, and it would have been amazing. If he were watching, he’d have been happy with how it turned out today.
“To do that today, a year on, I know he’d be very proud even though he’s not here. It means a lot,” he added.
It means that the victory over the world No 12 side puts Wales into the 9th-12th classification finish matches. They will face either Chile or Argentina
During normal time, James Carson scooped from the left into the D and Luke Hawker deflected deftly across the French goal for Wales’ opener.
A Wales counter after a double French PC nearly yielded a second after quick passing interchange from Shipperley.
A direct ball then did for Wales, though. Receiving the ball at the top of the D, a powerful shot on the turn from Corentin Sellier proved too much
His second was even better with another instinctive, driving forehand – again turning with his back to goal.
Gareth Furlong then lifted his arms to the heavens two minutes later after finding the net from one of Wales’ six overall PCs.
France had two second-half yellows, the second of which came seven minutes from time but they enjoyed a bright ending before Wales held out to the shoot-outs, and after a lengthy video referral for a last-ditch PC which went against France.
“We knew they were a really good side,” said Gareth Furlong. “But we qualified for the World Cup on a shoot out and we were confident.”