Men's FIH Pro League 2019: Great Britain beat New Zealand to reach final four

Chris Griffiths sent Great Britain on their way to a memorable victory
Chris Griffiths sent Great Britain on their way to a memorable victory

Great Britain's men reached the FIH Pro League finals after a tense 2-0 win over New Zealand in front of a packed crowd at Harlequins' Twickenham Stoop.

In the first match played at a UK rugby stadium, Britain knew a win would see them reach the final four of the first FIH Pro League tournament.

Forward Chris Griffiths swept home the opener on five minutes to ease nerves.

And with New Zealand applying late pressure, Alan Forsyth tapped home in the final quarter to seal the win.

The finish sparked celebrations in the stands as Britain reached the final stages of a tournament which began in January.

Defeat for Argentina by Belgium shortly before this 14th and final league fixture left the door ajar for Britain to move into fourth place in the standings and Danny Kerry's side took full advantage.

They will now play Australia in Amsterdam on Friday, when Belgium will face Netherlands in the other semi-final.

Britain, buoyed by Argentina's 4-1 loss to Belgium, nearly paid for countless wasted chances in the opening half.

After Griffiths continued his fine run of scoring form by smashing the opener, Phil Roper saw an effort saved before Zach Wallace hit the post moments before the half-time interval.

"They were playing to what we prescribed and doing really well," said head coach Kerry. "We should have been three or four-nil up but wanted to score a superb goal rather than just a goal. If we'd lost, that lesson would have been learned."

Goalkeeper Harry Gibson made key saves before half-time and when play resumed in the the third quarter, Britain defended a succession of attacks.

Their resistance ensured the visitors ended the match with nothing to show from their five penalty corners and when Ashley Jackson cleverly sent Griffiths through in the final quarter, he fired across goal, for Forsyth to turn home and confirm a memorable victory.

Captain Adam Dixon said: "We're really happy. It's a massive pay-off for the last six months.

"It's been quite tiring and quite taxing, so to be in there competing for medals rather than fifth or sixth place is really great for us. We'll quickly put this game to bed and look forward to next weekend.

"It felt great to go out in front of that crowd. It felt like a World Cup in the Netherlands or something. It felt different to the games we normally play.

"To see so many people wearing red and white and cheering when we attacked was great, made it feel a bit more real. It was amazing."

Adam Dixon
GB captain Adam Dixon says teams will be "scared" to play them in the finals

'The noise was deafening'

Ross Bone, BBC Sport at The Stoop

It had been billed as the biggest hockey crowd in this country since the 2012 Olympics and the mass of people on the way to the stadium seemed to back that up.

One aerial pass by Brendan Creed from one side of the field to the other almost brought the house down. When Chris Griffiths gave Danny Kerry's side the lead the noise was deafening.

With Belgium's 4-1 win over Argentina opening the door for Great Britain to qualify for the final four of the FIH Pro League, the crowd were well aware of the importance of what they were watching.

New Zealand put the Great Britain defence under the most pressure in the third quarter, and it seemed to get to the crowd. The cheers were replaced with murmurs and groans and there was an air of anxiety.

It wasn't until Ashley Jackson combined with Chris Griffiths to set up Alan Forsyth for the second, game-clinching goal in the final quarter that we really heard the crowd roar again. But roar they did, as Kerry's side sealed their place in the first ever FIH Pro League finals.

Final standings and semi-finals

Friday, 28 June - Semi-finals

Australia v Great Britain - Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam

Belgium v Netherlands - Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam

Sunday, 30 June - Finals

Semi-final 1 loser v Semi-final 2 loser - Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam

Semi-final 1 winner v Semi-final 2 winner - Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam

Great Britain1463153531422
New Zealand14040102647-214