New Zealand won the women's Olympic qualifying tournament here yesterday with their second 1-0 win of the event over Great Britain in a final that was far more exciting than the low scoring might suggest.
The match settled into a pattern of solid, at times desperate, defence and fast thrilling breaks from both sides. A careless tackle by the usually dependable Kath Johnson on Kylie Foy gave the Kiwis the opportunity to draw first blood when they won a sixth-minute penalty corner, but their captain, Anna Lawrence, shot wide.
At the other end Jane Sixsmith led Britain's first worthwhile attack after good work by Sue Chandler and Tina Cullen without being able to get in a shot. Back came New Zealand to win two further corners, which Hilary Rose dealt with confidently.
Then Britain squandered a couple of penalty corners before New Zealand launched another series of attacks that led to the decisive goal. From the second of two more penalty corners they earned, Suzie Pearce volleyed home the only goal of the game in the 29th minute off Rose's pads. The crucial strike followed Lawrence's initial shot which looked distinctly high, even allowing for a deflection off a British stick.
A completely reorganised midfield after the interval injected new life into the British assault with the 18-year-old Helen Richardson the central driving force. Time and time again in the second half as Britain sought a way back into the game, the crowd were electrified by a string of dazzling runs by Sixsmith, who was named player of the tournament by the international media. Sadly Britain's finishing was off target and New Zealand held on.
Their coach, Jan Borren, described their victory as a milestone in their history, and paid tribute to Britain's performance. Unhappy at coming second, Britain's Jon Royce at least felt that significant progress had been made.
Germany took third place by beating Spain 1-0, with a penalty corner strike from Denise Klecker two minutes from the end of a fluctuating game
GREAT BRITAIN: H Rose (Bury); H Richardson (Fyffes Leicester), F Greenham (Slough), M Clewlow (Canterbury), K Johnson (Harleston Magpies); J Smith (Slough), S Chandler (Slough, capt), D Marston-Smith (Clifton); J Sixsmith (Sutton Coldfield), L Wright (Olton), T Cullen (Hightown). Substitutes used: K Bowden, P Miller (both Fyffes Leicester), K Walsh (Hightown).
NEW ZEALAND: H Clarke; S Bennett, R Petrie, S McGregor, C Paewa; K Trolove, T Bell-Kake, A Lawrence (capt); K Foy, S Pearce, M Smith. Substitutes used: M Senior, L Walton.
Umpires: M Arnold (Aus) and U Conen (Ger).
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