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Tournament favourites New Zealand won the opening match at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan defeating Ireland 2-1 (1-1) in pool A. Because of the hot weather conditions here in Malaysia, this encounter was played in four quarters of 17.5 minutes each.
Steve Edwards (11’) opened the scoring from open play, before Alan Sothern (16’) equalised with a solo run. The intensive match saw both goalkeepers, Ireland’s David Harte and New Zealand’s Devon Manchester, called into action for the remainder of the first 35 minutes but scores remained level at the break.
“We expected that sort of match but we are very pleased with the win”, said Colin Batch. The Black Sticks coach also gave credit to the Irish goalkeeper: “David Harte had a very good game today.” Irish coach Craig Fulton added: “I have a very young team. David gives a lot of confidence to them.”
Batch’s Black Sticks started the second half with another early goal when Hugo Inglis (42’) converted the rebound of a Markus Child shot. Despite enjoying slightly more ball possession in the third quarter, the Green Machine could not fight their way back into the contest. The last quarter saw New Zealand pushing for a third goal, but the Irish defence held firm.
“This was a nice mental challenge to get through”, Fulton said. “I’m happy with our first match.”