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Black Sticks coach bemoans missed chances

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/06/2016

Coach Mark Hager says better finishing is vital after watching his New Zealand team blow an early lead in the 2-1 loss to Australia in Darwin.

The Black Sticks dominated the first half of the International Hockey Open match to lead 1-0 courtesy of Olivia Merry's 21st-minute strike from a penalty corner.

Hager says the lead should have been greater after squandering several other penalty corner opportunities and some bright attacking raids.

The world No.3 Hockeyroos were more clinical in the second half, scoring through Georgina Morgan from a sweeping penalty corner shot and Emily Smith, who pounced on a New Zealand defensive mistake.

Hager was pleased with his fourth-ranked team's up-tempo style but the missed chances were critical.

"We dominated for long periods and I was pleased with the majority of the game but they made us pay for a few bad errors," he said.

"If you look at the statistics we had a lot more goal shots than Australia, including two good opportunities that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter, so we can't afford to waste those."

Not all the near-misses were New Zealand's doing. It took a brilliant save from Australian goalkeeper Ashlee Wells to deny Sophie Cocks in the dying minutes.

Hockeyroos coach Adam Commens admits the Black Sticks had his side rattled in the first half.

"I thought tonight we were pretty average in the first half and New Zealand were exceptional. In the second half we played some really enterprising hockey and created a lot of chances."

The Test was the 100th for Canterbury midfielder Pippa Hayward.

Having opened with a 4-1 win over India, New Zealand will need to beat Japan in their final pool game on Friday to ensure another crack against Australia in the four-nation tournament's final a day later.

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