Monday, December 4, 2023

Hockey Pro League: Great Britain men end mini tour unbeaten in normal time

GB men were denied four successive normal time wins in the last minute of their mini tour to New Zealand, but head back ahead of their home leg as the only nation unbeaten in this season’s FIH Pro League.

In a highly entertaining clash, GB were 50 seconds from an outright win before Australia levelled at 3-3 – Joel Rintala netting a second hat-trick in only his third game – before the Kookaburras won an extra bonus point in a 4-2 shoot-out win.

This end-to-end Test match will be remembered for James Mazarelo’s stunning double save. A grounded Mazarelo had kept out an Australian circle attack with first stick, then reactionary glove from close range, as they looked to retake the lead with the sides locked at 1-1 in the third quarter.

His world-class effort proved pivotal a minute later when GB took the lead as Zach Wallace slotted home.

Australia levelled through Rintala’s second of the game and looked a safe bet to go in front when awarded a penalty stroke. It followed a stunning pass to break the GB lines, with David Ames saving off the line and a stroke awarded after Ollie Payne took down Nathan Ephraums inside the D. Payne nonchalantly saved the stroke shot.

With seven minutes left, a Dave Goodfield reverse from a PC was directed to goal, with Rupert Shipperley angling home.

Earlier, Sam Ward had deflected brilliantly to cancel out Rintala’s early corner goal, the Kookaburras starting the better as GB gifted too much turnover.

GB’s rising form means that their next match back at Lee Valley will be a top of the table clash against India.

Meanwhile, GB women recorded their biggest Pro League victory after a 6-1 win over New Zealand.

GB started and ended their final match in Canterbury with bluster, going 2-0 up inside three minutes through Izzy Petter and Darcy Bourne strikes.

Before half-time, Grace Balsdon scored the first of GB’s three penalty corner goals. GB then scored three times in the last 10 minutes, Tess Howard continuing her explosiv form before Hannah Martin and Giselle Ansley finished their mini tour.

A vastly different display from their 5-1 defeat to New Zealand in February 2019, GB now sit sixth in the women’s standings after three wins from four in Canterbury.

New Zealand currently sit bottom in the men and second from bottom in the women standings, both teams under threat from the Pro League’s first relegation.

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