A last-minute strike has rescued a share of the spoils for the New Zealand women’s hockey team against Australia on the opening day of the second Four Nations tournament in Auckland.
Midfield Anita Punt smashed home a shot from close range with just 40 seconds left on the clock to grab her second goal and help the Black Sticks to a 3-3 draw on Wednesday after they had been down 3-1.
New Zealand had won the first Four Nations tournament, also held in Auckland, by beating the Hockeyroos in the final on Monday.
Coach Mark Hager made several changes to his side, including giving strikers Petrea Webster and defender Sophie Devine a run after the pair had sat out the first series, and he was happy with the outcome.
“With the number of positional changes we made today, to still draw 3-3 with a full-strength Australian team is a pretty good effort,” he said.
Punt opened the scoring after eight minutes with a drag flick, but Australia made a quick response via Emily Smith.
The Hockeyroos went ahead early in the second half when Jodie Schulz converted a penalty corner and were up 3-1 through Georgia Nanscawen.
New Zealand skipper Kayla Sharland reduced the margin with a penalty-corner goal, before Punt produced her late equaliser.
After their healthy lead, the Hockeyroos were disappointed to finish with a draw.
Hockeyroos coach Adam Commens said his team responded quickly through a great build-up to equalise eight minutes after New Zealand’s first goal.
“Our forward and midfield play was at times outstanding today and it’s a disappointing result,” Commens said.
“Today we played the best hockey we’ve played all week.”
In the second half, Schulz again converted a drag flick to put the Australians in front.
“It just goes to show drag flickers can win you matches and it justifies all the development we have done with these players,” Commens said.
Schulz and a group of select players were identified by the Hockeyroos 14 months ago and a focus on drag flicking became key to their program.
“With my background in Europe and assistant coach Jason Duff’s time with the men, we felt we had the expertise to develop drag flicking in the women’s game and we’re now seeing the results,” Commens said.
The Hockeyroos face India on Thursday (11am AEST).
In Wednesday’s other match, the United States beat India 3-0.