Netherlands men, the defending champions, clinched the FIH Pro League title in Antwerp on Tuesday night with a pulsating 4-2 win over challengers Belgium.
With the Pro League title set to travel to London on the back of Great Britain’s fine form, it was their two late defeats which put their European rivals in the driving seat to overhaul Paul Revington’s side.
And the Oranje victory saw them finish top of the table on 35 points, three ahead of GB and five in front of Belgium, who ended the season in third.
The match saw Belgian John-John Dohmen equal Dutchman Teun de Nooijer’s all-time appearance record in internationals with a 453rd cap – he is now set to break the world record at next month’s EuroHockey Championships.
Having beeen beaten 6-1 by the Dutch in the Antwerp mini tournament, this was a different Red Lions in their last match of the campaign.
But it was a rare defensive error from Arthur de Sloover, who slipped and lost control of the ball that allowed Thijs van Dam to pounce and blast in the Netherlands’ opener.
Alexander Hendrickx drew his side level off a PC in the second quarter, his powerful drag flying past the right post player. But Jip Janssen put his side back in the lead off a Dutch penalty corner and Thierry Brinkman fired them further in front with a simple tap-in after an aerial ball into the circle caught the Belgian defence off-guard.
Within the first minute of the second half, Hendrickx had pulled one back for the Belgians again off another penalty corner.
Boris Burkhardt pushed the Dutch lead back out to two goals to secure the 4-2 victory.
Janssen said: “I think the last game gave a lot of confidence and we were fresh, we had a lot of energy still in the legs while they played yesterday. We knew that if we brought that energy we would be the winner of the match so it’s a very good feeling.”
Meanwhile, it was another fiercely contested encounter between the Belgian and Dutch women’s sides. But it was the already-crowned FIH Pro League champions, the Netherlands, who prevailed 2-1.
That saw them wrapping up their campaign on an impressive 46 points after 15 victories, and just the one shoot-out loss to Australia. The Belgians have one game remaining, against the USA on Wednesday. A victory there will see them leapfrogging Germany into fourth place.
Both on-field umpires in the second match wore black armbands as a mark of respect for Scottish Performance Programme Manager Derek Forsyth, who after a short illness, sadly passed away last week.