Women’s World League semi-final
Ireland 4 (N Evans 3, N Daly) South Africa 1 (K Madsen)
Nikki Evans’ hat trick inspired Ireland to an opening game 4-1 win over South Africa, starting their Hockey World League semi-final in style in Valencia.
She took just five minutes to break the deadlock, ghosting to the right of the circle to clip home the opening effort. Kelly Madsen levelled soon after with a deflection at the top of the circle but Ireland were back in front on 18 minutes via another Evans touch, this time from a deflection at penalty corner time.
South Africa had their chances to level in the third quarter but could not convert a pair of corners, won by the ingenuity of Dirkie Chamberlain.
Ireland, meanwhile, took their chances with Evans diving onto the end of Chloe Watkins’ powerful cross in the 50th minute for 3-1. Nicci Daly then completed the result with a spectacular solo goal, lifting the ball into the circle and cracking home on the volley.
It secured a fine win over a side ranked three places in the world rankings – Ireland are 14th – and a regular contender at World Cups and Olympic Games.
Speaking afterwards, captain Megan Frazer said it was a perfectly executed game-plan that inspired the result
“It was fantastic; what we aimed to do in our team talk, we executed exactly on the pitch and it showed in the second half. We had good control and were able to put it on the score sheet.
As for the Evans’ hat trick, Frazer added: “It sums her up; Nikki is an absolute workhorse. If there’s a chance of a goal, she will just throw herself at it. Whatever she has to do to get it in!”
The result puts Ireland in great shape to advance to one of the four quarter-final places from their initial five team group. They are back in action on Thursday at 2pm Irish time against reigning European champions Germany in their second game.
Ireland: E Gray, C Sargent, E Smyth, K Mullan, S McCay, M Frazer, A Connery, L Colvin, N Daly, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan
Subs: Y O’Byrne, N Evans, G Pinder, C Watkins, K Dillon, A Meeke, A McFerran