The opening day of play in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games women’s hockey saw Wales, New Zealand, England, and Australia picking up their first wins of the competition. Wales were the giant-killers as they defeated reigning Asian champions India 3-2 in a thrilling opening encounter.
Ranked 16 places below world number 10 ranked India, Wales came out firing and led 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals from Lisa Daley and Sian French. India looked sluggish, with captain Rani admitting her side "lacked energy" in the first half. However, after the break they were a different side, pressing higher and playing more aggressively. Their persistence paid off when the captain halved the deficit in the 33rd minute as she scored a brilliant diving deflection before Nikki Pradhan leveled the match with 19 minutes to go.
Wales were not to be denied, however, with striker Natasha Marke-Jones scoring the winning goal with three minutes left on the clock to record a memorable win, which, according to their captain and now record Welsh cap-holder, Leah Wilkinson (142 caps), was their biggest victory in recent history.
In the other morning match, New Zealand’s Black Sticks made an impressive start to their campaign, crushing Scotland 6-1. Four first-half goals set up the resounding win, amongst them a fantastic penalty corner conversion by Shiloh Gloyn to mark her first appearance at a Commonwealth Games.
England meanwhile resisted the challenge of African champions South Africa. Goals from Grace Balsdon and Susannah Townsend were enough to secure their 2-0 victory, however, it could have been more if it was not for an outstanding performance by South African goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande.
There was no stopping Balsdon’s corner flick in the 11th minute as she slammed the ball past the goalkeeper’s left foot to open the scoring. England then doubled their lead nine minutes later as Townsend squeezed a shot beyond Mbande after brilliant build-up play from Ellie Rayer and Alex Danson down the right.
Hosts Australia experienced a frustrating start to the defence of their title as Canada, ranked 21 in the FIH Hero World Rankings, forced the Hockeyroos to settle for a 1-0 victory. Whilst Canada will be pleased with their discipline and defense throughout the match, Australia were left frustrated having not converted more opportunities.
Australia, led by experienced players Jodie Kenny, Eddie Bone and Emily Smith, attacked from the opening whistle. Whilst It took some time, Commonwealth Games veteran Jodie Kenny finally broke through the Canadian defence deep into the second quarter and earned the first penalty corner of the game. Australia’s attempt at goal was illegally stopped from going over the line, therefore, a Penalty Stroke was awarded and duly converted by Kenny.
The Canadians gave Australia a scare late in the game, creating a penalty corner and an open strike at goal which sailed wide. However, the Hockeyroos held on to delight thousands of local fans who packed the stands.
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