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FIH PRO LEAGUE-BLACK STICKS TEAMS MAKE HISTORY.

  The Vantage Black Sticks Men have secured their first-ever FIH Hockey Pro League win in regulation time with a determined 3-2 win over Spain. The final quarter had plenty of fireworks as the Spanish looked to work themselves back into the contest. Leon Hayward was massive for the New Zealand team as he scrambled from side to side in goal with the speed of a gazelle.

Black Sticks Men’s Coach Darren Smith said after the game “Leon was in good form for us today. We were more clinical on both ends of the field, which was a big factor in the turnaround from yesterday.”

The Vantage Black Sticks Men came into their second contest of the weekend hoping to be able to put the demons of the previous match behind them where Spain waltzed away 4-1 winners.

The first quarter stayed true to form with these two sides as neither team was willing to give an inch, this resulted in a scoreless opening period as both teams looked to shift the opposing screen and find the channels through to their strike line.

After holding out a determined Spanish team in the first quarter, the Vantage Black Sticks opened the scoring early in the second quarter when Kane Russell whipped an incredible drag flick high into the Spanish net.

The startled Spanish side started to find their footing in the match as they managed to earn several scoring opportunities. New Zealand was playing with discipline and focus in the defensive circle and kept frustrating the Spanish attack.

The pressure continued throughout the remainder of the first half as the Spanish earned four late penalty corners, Leon Hayward was proving to be a difference-maker in goal as he would deny the Spanish drag flickers on several occasions.

As the Spanish side was looking to equalize and get the match on level terms, the Vantage Black Sticks Men stormed down the field and put an outstanding ball into the circle. The Spanish goalkeeper made the initial save before a flying Steve Edwards touched in the rebound to put the Kiwis in the front 2-0.

Just before the third quarter ended the Spanish managed to get themselves on the scoresheet when an outstanding reverse stick pass into the circle was deflected past Leon Hayward in goal by Alvaro Iglesias.

With only thirteen minutes to go in the match, the Kiwis were reduced to ten men after Cory Bennett was sent from the field for five minutes setting up what looked to be a tight finish.

Spain were looking desperate and made a last-ditch effort to find the equalizer when they pulled their goalkeeper hoping that the man advantage would give them a decisive benefit in the game.

The Kiwis looked to secure the win when Kane Russell was pushed over just outside the circle earning the New Zealand side a penalty corner against the open Spanish goal. Kane Russell then calmly stepped forward and flicked the ball into the goal for his second goal of the match.

Moments before the end of the match the Kiwis were caught napping when a long ball was threaded through their midfield to an unmarked Pau Quemada who then smashed a rocket past Hayward in goal.

Despite the late flurry of goals, the Kiwis were able to hold their nerve to secure the much needed 3 points and a 3-2 win over a feisty Spanish side.   After a tough last month where the New Zealand teams have played the past three weekends, the Black Sticks will now have a weekend off before returning to the turf against Argentina on the 28th Feb

Vantage Black Sticks Men 3 (Kane Russell 16, 56 min, Steve Edwards 38 min)
Spain 2 (Alvaro Iglesias 44 min, Pau Quemada 60 min)  
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