The Vantage Black Sticks went down 1-3 to India in a physical encounter Saturday night in Bangalore, as the host nation claimed a 2-0 lead in the best of 3 series.
The Kiwis were determined to start strongly after being stung by an early penalty corner in Game 1 Thursday night. With the two teams playing aggressive hockey the first quarter was a robust affair with both sides looking to gain ascendancy.
The Black Sticks defence stood up and India struggled to create chances. However, after a scoreless first quarter it was India, once again via their PC expert Rupinder Singh who went ahead 1-0 in the 18th minute.
New Zealand striker Stephen Jenness, who has had a successful tour in front of goal, pegged one back, scoring a field goal in the 24th minute, taking his tally to six in six games. At 1-1 the Vantage Black Sticks looked good to go into half time on par, but India managed a late field goal in the 27th minute to creep ahead 2-1 as the first half drew to a close.
The remainder of the match was back and forth as the visitors pressed and tried to break down the Indian defence to get back the deficit and
With the score still 2-1 to India with five minutes remaining, in a final push to salvage a draw from the match, the Vantage Black Sticks pulled goalkeeper George Enersen, in an attempt to snatch an equaliser and something to play for in Game 3, But it was India who caught the Kiwis out on the counter attack with a goal in the dying minutes to Mandeep Singh to seal the win and run out eventual winners 3:1.
“Coach Darren Smith was pleased with how his charges took the game to the world’s 5th ranked side, “It was a physical encounter today with both teams pushing hard for a win. Our penalty corner defence was much improved in the first half and our tackling in defence better. This saw India struggle to break us down and with our speed on the counter we threatened.
“What I would like to see is our ball retention and composure improve so that we are able to exploit their press, which at times is aggressive and with numbers. If we can have this tomorrow then there is plenty of space to exploit in behind”.
Despite the physical nature of the match, the two sides familiar with each other after several encounters already in 2018, did not incur the attention of the match officials, with no cards awarded the entire game.
The tour has certainly taken its toll on the Vantage Black Sticks with a couple of senior names likely ruled out of the last game Sunday night. Defender Nic Woods suffered a knee injury in the match and is touch-and-go for Game 3, while the highly experienced Shea McAleese succumbed to a calf injury on Thursday and will take no further part in the tour.
Special mention to Richard Joyce who played in his 50th international test match for NZ!
The Vantage Black Sticks play India in their final tour game on Sunday night at 10:30pm NZ time. Fans can follow live scoring on the FIH match website.
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS: 1 (Stephen Jenness 24′)
INDIA: 3 (Rupinder Singh 18′, Sunil Sowmarpet 27′, Mandeep Singh 56′)
Half Time: IND 2-1