A late Stephen Jenness field goal clinched a 3-2 win for the Vantage Black Sticks Men over Samurai Japan, at the Kawasaki Juko Stadium in Gifu this afternoon. The Kiwis, coming off a humbling 7-1 loss to Japan two nights before, were determined to get back to winning ways and make amends for an out of character performance.
After a tight and scoreless first quarter, the Black Sticks struck with two goals in super quick succession in the 24th minute of the match, a field goal to Stephen Jenness, then only moments later, a Jared Panchia goal, to see the New Zealanders ahead 2-0.
The lead was quickly erased however, with Japan immediately striking back with a Kazuma Murata brace in the 26th and 29th minute, leveling the scores at half time.
A tense battle ensued as both teams pushed for the win, with the Vantage Black Sticks down three players due to injury in the first half. It fell to Black Sticks striker Stephen Jenness to break the deadlock 3 minutes from full time for his third goal of the tour and snatch a 3-2 win for the visitors.
For Head Coach Darren Smith, it was a pleasing return to form for the team after the disappointment of the previous match.
“Much better performance from the team today. We were in control of the match for large periods and I felt that our passing, movement and ability to hold the ball was much improved. We were also able to limit Japan’s threats through our defensive application.
“The other aspect that was impressive is that we lost three players in the first half to injury meaning that we played the entire second half with only three substitutes. Considering the heat, humidity and Japan wanting to play the game at pace we showed some quality and determination to close the game out”.
The Vantage Black Sticks will play the last of four matches in the Japan series Thursday night, at 9pm NZ time, followed by a one-off match verses Germany in Gifu, Friday at 9pm NZ time.
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS: 3 (Stephen Jenness 24′ and 57′, Jared Panchia 24′)
JAPAN: 2 (Kazuma Morata 26′ and 29′)
Half Time: 2:2