Great Britain 4 (2)
Alex Danson 10, 33, 52 (FG, PC, FG)
Lily Owsley 26 (FG)
New Zealand 3 (1)
Anita McLaren 22 (FG)
Olivia Merry 39 (PC)
Kelsey Smith 47 (PC)
A stunning hat-trick from Great Britain’s Alex Danson fired them to a 4-3 win over New Zealand in the women’s Hockey Champions Trophy. Danson’s treble in addition to a strike from Lily Owsley handed Danny Kerry’s team their first win of the tournament and fifth place in the competition. Despite goals from Anita McLaren, Olivia Merry and Kelsey Smith, the Blacksticks were condemned to the wooden spoon.
Great Britain started the match with a real hunger and Sophie Bray was causing plenty of problems in the opening exchanges. Bray did well to set Owsley free down the left but her cross just evaded Susannah Townsend. It wasn’t long until the deadlock was broken, however. Bray was again involved, threading a lovely pass into the circle for Danson to slam in a backhand strike to make it 1-0.
Immediately after the goal, Maddie Hinch was called into action, saving well from Charlotte Harrison, once from open play and then again from a penalty corner. Danny Kerry’s side were looking dangerous and Owsley almost added another but her shot from Danson’s pass flashed wide. Bray was terrorizing the Blacksticks’ defence and the No19 robbed the defender and played in Owsley who brought a fine stop from Amelia Gibson in the New Zealand goal.
New Zealand hit back early in the second quarter and levelled the scores. The ball broke to McLaren inside the circle and she needed no second invitation to smash home a lovely finish to make it 1-1. Parity was restored for just four minutes. Danson crossed for Owsley who slotted home at the second attempt to make it 2-1 at the half time interval.
Three minutes into the third quarter Great Britain scored again. A slick penalty corner routine involving a double dummy set up Laura Unsworth to find Danson with a slapped pass, the No15 did the rest to make it 3-1. Hinch had to be on alert as she made a good save to deny Harrison from close range and then moments later the goalkeeper was brave, blocking a thunderbolt from Merry.
Merry got the better of the home defence in the 39th minute from a penalty corner, smashing in a powerful strike that found the net via the goalkeeper’s pads.
The game was nicely balanced heading into the final quarter and within two minutes of the restart, New Zealand equalised. Kayla Whitelock’s penalty corner was deflected in by Kelsey Smith to tie it up once again.
Undeterred, Great Britain pushed forwards again. Roared on by a fanatical home crowd, Danson broke through and with the goalkeeper closing her down, produced a sublime finish to loft the ball over Sally Rutherford to complete her hat-trick and put Danny Kerry’s side 4-3 up. New Zealand went to a kicking back for the final five minutes as they aimed to salvage the game, but some strong defensive work by the ever-reliable Sam Quek and her team mates kept the Blacksticks at bay and clinched the game for Great Britain.
The bronze medal match between Australia and USA is currently in progress. The final between Argentina and Netherlands starts at 1830.
Alex Danson told Great Britain Hockey afterwards:
“It was a fantastic game. Thank you to everyone who has come out and supported us this week, I don’t think anyone has lost faith in us and we haven’t lost faith in ourselves. To have a fantastic atmosphere like that on our home turf in the Olympic Park is pretty special. After a hard week we are delighted to come away with that last win.”
“The first goal was a fantastic ball though from Sophie Bray that gave me a clear shot on goal. The second goal was a very well worked short corner. A fantastic ball from Laura Unsworth and there wasn’t a lot I needed to do apart from lay my stick flat and let it go in. The third one was another great ball through from Bray which just enabled me to get one on one with the keeper. They were three really nice team goals which is fantastic. The third one I remember thinking the keeper comes out pretty quick so I needed to get something in the air and hope it popped in, which it did!”
“It was really important to get the win today but even though it has been a difficult week the one thing that hasn’t been lost is that sense of togetherness. We know what we are about, we knew coming into this tournament it could go brilliantly well or not so well but it would have no impact on what we can achieve going into Rio. We will go back to Bisham Abbey now, we have a few weeks to consolidate our final preparations. I believe we have the best programme out there, the best staff and the best players. It is pretty exciting moving into the final period of time before the Olympics.”
“Sometimes a little set back is mark of strength, when a team can come back out and perform it shows great belief. We never rest on our laurels. We are a very, very tight team and we know exactly what we want to achieve. We believe in each other and we will go and get the job done.”