At the women’s hockey in Birmingham, New Zealand and England ground their way to 0-0 at fulltime and the almost inevitable penalty shootout, which England won 2-0.
New Zealand went into the match as defending Games champions, but only four of the gold medal-winning team from the Gold Coast were on the field in Birmingham.
New Zealand’s performance, against the Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists, and in front of a massively noisy pro-England crowd, was outstanding.
In the early stages New Zealand made most of the running, including earning no less than seven penalty corners in the first five minutes.
But in the end, England had 13 shots at goal to New Zealand’s eight.
Both goalies were brilliant. For New Zealand, Grace O’Hanlon made three saves, while for England Maddy Hinch had to make six.
New Zealand coach Darren Smith was full of praise for his team.
“We played good hockey and created a lot of chances,” he said. “It was disappointing not to come through the shootout, but that’s a lottery.”
Smith said it was frustrating that New Zealand were unable to capitalise on any of the opportunities they created, but he fully commended the team’s defensive effort.
“The defence and the tackling was pretty fantastic. You had to admire the work of both goalies.”
New Zealand co-captain Megan Hull said she was extremely proud of a performance that was “nothing short of incredible”.
“There are a few shattered hearts for sure, but boy am I proud of what was achieved. We put everything into it and it just didn’t go our way.”
Pressed for areas that might be improved on, Hull mentioned that perhaps the team could be more clinical around penalty corners and in the circle, but she said overall the team defended like Trojans and deserved nothing but praise.
The New Zealand men bowed out of the hockey medal reckoning when they went down 4-3 to South Africa in their final pool match.
The New Zealanders had an unfortunate start and found themselves 2-0 down after seven minutes.
After that, New Zealand got themselves into the game and ended up having more of the possession and spending two-thirds of the time on attack. They earned 14 penalty corners to South Africa’s six.
The problem for New Zealand was that South Africa made the most of the chances they did have, whereas New Zealand were constantly thwarted by the South African defence.
For New Zealand Sam Lane, Hugo Inglis and Jake Smith scored goals. When Inglis scored the third goal from a penalty corner, in the 37th minute, it was 3-3 and it seemed New Zealand might have snuck the result needed to get through to the semi-finals.
However Connor Beauchamp scored a fourth goal for South Africa from a penalty corner in the 53rd minute and New Zealand were unable to draw level again. They earned one more penalty corner and kept pressing, but to no avail.
The men will play Wales in a playoff for 5th/6th on August 8 at 5am. The women play India in the bronze medal match on August 7 at 8pm.