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Poonam Rani completes 150 caps for India at the Hawke’s Bay Cup

INDIAN EVES FORWARD Poonam Rani achieved the distinction of playing 150 matches for her country today. She achieved the milestone in India’s opening match of the Hawke’s Bay Cup against hosts New Zealand.

Hisar-born Poonam, who played her first international in 2009, has not looked back since her debut helped her seal a Junior World Cup berth in the United States the same year. She later represented India in the World Cup in Argentina, in New Delhi’s Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.

Since then Poonam has represented India in almost every tournament that the country has played. She was also part of the historic bronze medal winning team at the Junior World Cup in Germany in 2013 and the Olympic qualifying team last year.

“Hockey India is extremely delighted for Poonam's achievement of 150 international matches. She has been an integral part of  this historic Indian team and we wish her all the best for the future,” Md. Mushtaque Ahmad, Secretary General Hockey India said.

India’s opening match against the hosts started with the Indians immediately forced on the backfoot as New Zealand attacked with speed right from the whistle. Two penalty corners were thwarted away and the score remained nil.

A smart save from Savita in goal, off a penalty stroke, one that shocked the fans meant India walked away from the first quarter with a clean sheet.

New Zealand took the lead through an Olivia Merry field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.

Forced to defend deep, India played the waiting game, as New Zealand kept them pressed back in their own half for a large portion of the first half, and they went into the break trailing the hosts 1-0.

Indian goalkeeper Savita, who was always going to be put under pressure in the high voltage encounter, rose to the occasion, denying New Zealand several  times through the game, and ensuring India were always had a chance to come back. In the last quarter particularly, Savita’s saves from six New Zealand attempts put the pressure on the hosts to close the match out. New Zealand’s last PC of the game, defended superbly meant there was no change to the score, as the points went to the hosts.

Speaking after the match, Chief Coach Neil Hawgood applauded his goalkeeper’s performance.

“In such pressure games, against higher ranked opponents, who also happen to be the hosts, it is important that your goalkeepers have a world-class game. Despite the loss, we can see positives in our performance in defence and in goal. This was arguably the toughest match of our group stage and now we can build forward for our next encounters.”

India play Ireland in their next pool game at 10:30 am local time tomorrow, 5th April, 2016.

The 2016 Hawke's Bay Cup is an invitational 8 nation women tournament, held between April 2-10 as part of the festival of hockey in New Zealand. The venue for the three-year-old event, is the stunning Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings. For the 2016 tournament, the eight participating nations are Australia, Canada, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. Today's matches saw Canada beat Korea, Australia held to a draw by Japan and New Zealand beat India. The final group game saw China beat Ireland.

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