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Black Sticks fight back to beat Japan

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/05/2017
<span style="font-size:13px;">Kane Russell.</span> © Getty Images Kane Russell.

A Kane Russell double has helped the Black Sticks men beat Japan 3-2 and remain in contention for a place in the final at hockey's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

The win follows a draw with Australia and loss to India, leaving New Zealand third after three of five rounds in Ipoh.

Their remaining matches are against last-placed tournament hosts Malaysia on Wednesday and co-leaders Great Britain two days later.

After surrendering an early Japanese goal to Shota Yamada at a penalty corner, the Black Sticks responded with their best hockey of the tournament.

Defender Russell ripped a hard flick low and inside the left post from a penalty corner early in the second quarter.

They hit the front when a stroke was awarded for a push in the back on Mac Wilcox, with Russell making no mistake.

Sam Lane extended the lead five minutes into the second half with a neat turn and flick from just inside the circle.

Japan mounted pressure in the final quarter, creating a second drag-flick goal for Yamada, but they remain winless at the six-nation tournament.

New Zealand coach Darren Smith was pleased to see his team lift their performance.

"I thought we played well for most of the game, especially in the second half when we were under immense pressure our defence really stood up," he said.

"We tackled well and protected the centre of the field which saw us get the upper hand. To see such a young group of players putting in a performance like that is excellent."

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