British women see of Kiwis to reach first Olympic hockey final

Great Britain's women's hockey team put in a clinical display to reach their first ever Olympic final at the expense of New Zealand.

Team GB were the only semi-final team with an 100 per cent record in Rio, and they made it seven wins from seven as Alex Danson scored twice and Helen Richardson-Walsh once in a 3-0 win.

Victory assures the British women of at least silver, having only won two bronze medals in the history of the Games, in 1992 and four years ago in London.

The Netherlands stand in Team GB’s way in the final, defeating Germany 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out to keep alive their hopes of landing a third straight gold.

But Danson, who was part of the England team who defeated the Dutch in the final of last year’s European Championships in London, insisted the Brits’ team ethic has been a key factor in their historic performance in Rio.

“We’ve played together and been tight as a unit so to come away with a win is just incredible,” said Danson, who was part of the bronze medal-winning team four years ago.

“I’m so proud of this team. Defensively, we’ve been outstanding at this tournament, as a whole unit.

“We’ve been tight and nobody can come through us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team defend like that in a circle – we were absolutely outstanding. We snubbed out any sniff New Zealand had.

“I believe we have the best tacticians in the world on our management staff and we have very intelligent players who are able to put that on to the field. That’s won us games here – concentrating for the entire 60 minutes and knowing what our roles are."

Danson started the ball rolling in the second period, pouncing on a rebound of Crista Cullen’s penalty corner to snatch her fourth goal of the tournament.

The Kiwis, also looking to make their first Olympic final, responded with pressure of their own, but couldn’t find a way past a resolute British back line.

Rather than sit back on their lead, the Brits continued to push forward, and they earned their just rewards two minutes into the final period, as Danson played in Richardson-Walsh who was brought down with the goal at her mercy for a penalty stroke.

Richardson-Walsh picked herself up to put home the penalty before Danson sealed the result with a penalty stroke of her own five minutes later.

“They executed brilliantly today,” said British head coach Danny Kerry. “They absolutely played how they’d been set out to do it and it really paid dividends.

"I was really proud of them playing under pressure in the second half. They kept playing forward trying to take opportunities and I’m really proud of that.

“But there’s still one more game to go and they’re going to keep their feet on the ground.

“Holland have probably got a bit of a point to prove after the Europeans and I think the final will be a tight, cagey affair.

“But we’ve adapted some of our training to replicate some of the thinking needed in tight games and we’ve learned some lessons.”