Hockey: England attack overwhelms Belgium's defensive wall

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By Bill Colwill

ENGLAND'S men comprehensively defeated a hard-tackling Belgian side 6-2 in Brussels on Saturday, overcoming opponents determined to defend their goal in depth.

Bill Waugh put a hole in the Belgians' strategy after just five minutes when he stole in to give England a lead they never relinquished. Building quickly upon this platform, a penalty stroke from Jon Wyatt and a Russell Garcia penalty corner provided the visitors with a comfortable half-time lead.

Yet, while Belgium had conceded the midfield, they attacked sporadically out of defence at speed which, in the first half, forced Simon Mason into a series of fine stops.

Although this tactic twice enabled the Belgians to breach England's second- half defences, two strikes from Callum Giles and another from Mark Pearn ensured a deserved victory.

Meanwhile, in Utrecht, the venue for this month's World Cup, England's women achieved their first victory over the Dutch since 1991, winning the first match in a two-Test series, 2-1.

After falling behind almost immediately to a fine reverse stick shot from Ellen Dubbeldam, England quickly hauled themselves back into contention.

Kirsty Bowden's interception and long clearance freed Tina Cullen, who cut inside the defence to provide Jane Smith with an 11th-minute equaliser.

England continued to pressurise the Dutch and took the lead for good six minutes later. Cullen intercepted a Dutch clearance on the 25-yard line and, after exchanging passes with Jane Sixsmith, chipped the ball over the goalkeeper.

The second half saw the Dutch place England's defence under heavy pressure but sound work from Jo Mould and Mel Clewlow, coupled with some critical saves from goalkeeper Caroline Reid, held the home team at bay.

Twenty minutes into the second half, Cullen seemed to have scored her second, again following a quick breakout from defence. However, after consultation, the umpire ruled that her strike had been made outside the circle.

The England coach, Maggie Souyave, while pleased that her side had taken their opportunities, felt that in the second game they would require a stronger physical presence.