(Photo: © © Pamela Hancock/clickcandidphoto.com)

Final
New Zealand 2 defeated South Africa 0
Goals: NZL - Meredith Orr PC 37m, Niniwa Roberts-Lang PC 48m

New Zealand have ensured a quick return to the Champions Trophy with a 2-0 win over South Africa in final of the women's Rababank Hockey Champions Challenge in Virginia Beach.

After being relegated from the elite six-team tournament late last year, New Zealand played controlled hockey and took their second half chances to ensure they will return to the Champions Trophy fold in Amstelveen, Netherlands, next July next year.

New Zealand earned a spot in the final due to better goal difference compared to England, but they showed their dominace over South Africa, the leader after round robin play, throughout the final.

The first half of the championship match showed two teams aware of each others' skills and anxious about making the first mistake. Both had their chances in the first half, but none of them could take the lead in a goalless first 35 minutes.

In the second half, the teams risked more and it was New Zealand that got took the advantage after in the 37th minute on a penalty corner conversion by Meredith Orr.

New Zealand then gained more and more control and South Africa were often to react to the Black Sticks' play. Eleven minutes after their first goal, Niniwa Roberts-Lang scored her first goal of the tournament to give her team a vital two-goal lead.

Due to a tight defense managed by the player of the tournament Lizzy Igasan, South Africa’s attacks were always blocked in front of the circle.

3rd Place Playoff
Japan 2 defeated England 1
Goals: JPN - Tomomi Komori PC 42m, Kaori Chiba FG 67m; ENG - Leisa King FG 25m

In the match for bronze medal, Japan scored a late goal to claim a 2-1 win over England. Because of severe thunderstorms in Virginia Beach, the match started with a delay of 90 minutes. Scheduled for 18:30, it didn’t begin until 20:00.

When England and Japan competed in round robin play, the Europeans were defeated 0-4. During the first minutes of today’s match, England quickly made clear that this time they wouldn't accept such a defeat.

It seem to work out when Leisa King took the lead for England in the 25th minute with a well-taken field goal. Captain Kate Walsh and the English team were able to keep this lead up to half time.

In the second half Japan started playing their tough and fast game and finally drew level on a penalty corner after 42 minutes by Tomomi Komori.

Three minutes before the end of the regular time Kaori Chiba deflected a long pass high into the goal to give Japan the bronze medal and a 2-1 victory.

5th Place Playoff
USA 5 defeated Spain 3
Goals: USA - Kelly Doton PC 2m PC 59m, Angie Loy FG 15m PC 53m, Kate Barber FG 48m; ESP - Ester Termens FG 10mm, Marta Prat FG 11m, Rocio Ybarra PC 53m

USA recorded their second win in as many matches over Spain with doubles to Angie Loy and Melissa Leonetti giving the home team a 5-3 win.

In an exciting start to the match, four goals were scored in the opening 15 minutes before played settled and the teams went to the half time break at 2-2.

USA gained control in the second hald and scored two unanswered goals in the 48th and 51st minutes to oopen a comfortable lead before trading goals with Spain towards the end of the match to secire a 5-3 win.

The hosts played enterprising hockey throughout the tournament and their performances in the final two matches indicated the team has a lot of potential in their qualification quest for the 2006 Samsung Hockey World Cup

Player of the Tournament: Lizzy Igasan (NZL)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Amy Tran (USA)
Top Goal Scorer: Angie Loy (USA)