Black Sticks stumble in bronze match

By Robert Lowe, NZ Newswire Updated August 11, 2012, 6:35 am

Coach Mark Hager lamented the Black Sticks' "apprehensive" performance as they fell short of claiming New Zealand's first medal in Olympic women's hockey.

Great Britain, roared on by a 15,000 capacity crowd that included the Duchess of Cambridge, won the bronze medal match 3-1 at London's Riverbank Arena on Friday.

New Zealand were unable to repeat their gutsy showing against the Netherlands on Wednesday, when they took the defending champions and world No.1 to a shoot-out.

Hager says the British were desperate, got to the ball first and won the 50-50 challenges.

"We were outplayed the whole game," Hager said.

"We were apprehensive, we were too stand-offish. They were on the front foot and we could never recover from that."

For Hager, the likes of British pair Crista Cullen and skipper Kate Walsh, who needed surgery to her jaw after being injured earlier in the tournament, personified the difference.

"When I saw us go on attack and Cullen and Walsh, with a broken jaw, were diving in their defensive circle, to me that means they wanted it," he said.

"We didn't have that today."

Hager said one major disappointments was how well Black Sticks co-captain Kayla Sharland had led from the front "and not enough players followed her".

All four goals came from second-half penalty corners, with Alex Danson, Cullen and Sarah Thomas putting Great Britain up 3-0.

New Zealand, who at No.6 are ranked two places below the home side, managed a consolation goal with three minutes to go, when Stacey Michelsen produced a neat deflection.

Sharland agreed that the Black Sticks had been too passive.

She said their exertions against the Dutch weren't the reason, as there had been plenty of time to recover.

But she suggested the some players in what is a youthful squad might not have prepared as they should have and that would be a lesson going forward.

Fourth still represents New Zealand's best finish at an Olympic women's tournament and a big improvement on their winless last place in Beijing four years ago.

But in the immediate aftermath of missing a medal, that was little consolation for Sharland, who was part of the 2008 squad.

"It's frustrating to stumble at the last hurdle."

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