3 May 2017

Black Sticks claim first win

7:35 am on 3 May 2017

A Kane Russell double has helped the New Zealand men's hockey team beat Japan 3-2 and claim their first win at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

New Zealand men's hockey player Kane Russell

Black Sticks player Kane Russell Photo: PHOTOSPORT

After surrendering an early goal, New Zealand powered back with three unanswered strikes either side of halftime to take control of the match.

Japan mounted relentless pressure in the fourth quarter and despite allowing another goal, the Black Sticks defence held firm to ensure their first victory at the tournament.

Head coach Darren Smith said it was pleasing to come away with three crucial points from the result.

"I thought we played well for most of the game, especially in the second half when we were under immense pressure our defence really stood up," he said.

"We tackled well and protected the centre of the field which saw us get the upper hand. To see such a young group of players putting in a performance like that is excellent.

"We'll go away now and focus on putting in another big effort against Malaysia who we know are a tough team, and they will be playing in front of a packed and noisy home crowd so we need to be on our game."

New Zealand are fourth on the six team table after three games.

The Black Sticks play hosts Malaysia in their next match at 12:30am Thursday morning (NZT).