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Black Sticks topple Australia in final

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/06/2016

The Black Sticks have continued a memorable start to their Olympic year by toppling Australia in the final of a women's hockey tournament in Darwin.

New Zealand won the International Hockey Open courtesy of a 2-0 win, with goals to Kelsey Smith and Olivia Merry late in the first half proving decisive.

It follows world No.4 New Zealand's series win away to second-ranked Argentina in March, followed by victory in the eight-nation Hawke's Bay Cup in Hastings in April, where they beat third-ranked Australia 3-2 in the semi-finals.

The Hockeyroos won the round-robin match 2-1 in Darwin on Wednesday after New Zealand squandered a lead but there was to be no repeat in Saturday's final.

Coach Mark Hager couldn't fault his team, who were impressive at both ends of the turf, creating a good chunk of scoring chances while limiting those offered to the hosts.

"We didn't have a bad player out there tonight and that's what you need to win big games," he said.

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves though, we have big ambitions for the Champions Trophy in a few weeks and then our pinnacle - the Rio Olympics."

Hager said the foundation of victory was established by the defence, where he nominated Amelia Gibson and goalkeeper Georgia Barnett as stand-outs.

New Zealand played at a high intensity from the outset, finally creating a goal in the 24th minute to Smith, who cleverly collected a bouncing ball before driving it home.

Merry doubled the advantage when New Zealand earned their first penalty corner on the stroke of halftime, scoring via a strong forehand shot from the top of the circle.

Another Canterbury striker, Sophie Cocks, became the second New Zealand player at the tournament to play her 100th international.

A Black Sticks squad will be named shortly for the Champions Trophy in London from June 19-27.

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