France and Ireland will reprise last Sunday’s battle royale as they won their way through to the final of the FIH Champions Challenge II this afternoon with victories over Scotland and Russia, respectively.
Both games were goal-fests though the manner of each was in stark contrast as the French were pushed all the way while the boys in green had a more comfortable path.
The former won 5-3 as they took a mad-cap game, bouncing back from a goal deficit to lead at half-time.
Riding an early storm, they had nipped into the lead through Fergus Dunn’s simple tap-in and were boosted further when French skipper Francois Scheefer picked up a yellow card.
But they were unable to push on, and it cost them dear as France still pressed forward despite their numerical disadvantage and swapped the lead in a matter of minutes. Olivier Sanchez thumped home the equaliser before Fabien Magner found a route through Mark Fulton’s defences.
Scotland were reduced to nine men as both William Marshall and Gareth Hall were shown yellow but an excess of numbers scarcely helped the French as Dan Coultas brilliantly converted a corner off the underside of the crossbar to level at 2-2 in the 42nd minute.
Stung into action, the hosts responded with what proved the ultimate incision. Magner again found a route through Fulton for 3-2, Lucas Sevestre shovelled in from close range before Jean-Baptiste Pauchet slotted a simple fifth.
Henri-Julien Lhomme denied a Kenny Bain penalty stroke which might have given Scotland a lifeline before Michael Christie battered in for 3-5 with seven minutes to go but they were unable to get into range.
For Ireland, a stunning display of corner efficiency set them on course for a rousing 9-2 rout of Russia.
Eugene Magee started the run in the 11th minute, dragging right via post-man Sergey Kostarev, before Conor Harte got the first of his hat-trick three minutes later, switching to the stick side.
Nikolay Komarov got one back but the retort was immediate, as Peter Caruth finished off a clinical counter-attack. Harte’s second and a straight flick from Peter Blakeney completed the half’s scoring in the 28th minute, both from corners, to build a 5-1 advantage.
The pattern continued into the second half, Harte completing his first international hat-trick three minutes after the break. Mikey Watt scored the seventh, touching home Eugene Magee’s cross and the goal-rush was completed as Caruth set up first Geoff McCabe and then Gareth Watkins for goals eight and nine.
Komarov got a deflected second two minutes from time but it was mere consolation as Ireland marched into the final while Russia face Scotland in the bronze medal match.
In the 5th to 8th place classification matches, Long Sun’s goal seven minutes from time saw China win 3-2 and move into the 5th-6th place playoff while Austria face the relegation match.
Austria had twice levelled, Manuel Grandits corner rebound and a straight shot from Matthias Gero but the Chinese speed from open play proved the European side’s undoing.
They were ahead inside six minutes, Yubo Na snagging his first and the spritely striker made it 2-1 in the 24th minute when he cut in from the right and flipped the ball past Philippe Thiltges from close range.
The Czech Republic will be China’s opponents after Jakub Kyndl’s late penalty corner double earned them their second win over the USA in seven days, taking a 2-1 result. It took until the fourth quarter of the game for the goals to come, Kyndl eventually breaking the deadlock in the 57th minute after a lively, end-to-end, tie.
He took over the drag-flicking from the effective Tomas Prochazka to fire home what looked to be the vital goal. The Czechs subsequently looked content to run the time down until Stepan Bernatek stole in to win another corner 80 seconds from time.
Kyndl again applied the finish before Kevin Barber smacked home a fine consolation goal with three seconds to go but to no celebration, his side condemned to the seventh place playoff tomorrow.