Where England's footballers have failed time after time in major tournaments over the years, there were no such worries for their women's hockey team at the Commonwealth Games in the semi finals today. Hopes had not been all that high going into the tournament after a disappointing performance in the World Cup a few weeks ago, where they could manage only 11th place, but they have performed more solidly so far at the Games in the group stages. With a guaranteed medal on the line and a place in the final up for grabs, their match with New Zealand was a tight affair with few clearcut chances during normal time. Indeed, after a cagey first half in which England got their noses in front with a goal by Lily Owsley, they seemed to settle in the second period and if anything were favourites to extend their lead.

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Enter the last ten minutes and the tension began to mount a little as England could not extend their slender lead, despite the All Blacks being two players down at one stage due to infringements that the referee deemed worthy of yellow cards and five minutes off the pitch for the players responsible (one of which was the New Zealand captain, Kayla Whitelock, who became the 'sacrificial lamb' when they had too many players on the pitch at one stage). England also lost Alex Danson near the end for a foul that evened up the numbers and seemed to spur on their opponents. A number of penalty corners were awarded to the All Blacks during the final stages and with only a couple of minutes to play they found an equaliser with a deft diversion from Katie Glynn. There was even time before the final hooter for New Zealand to hit the post and for England to go close themselves with the final shot of normal time.

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With no extra time in field hockey, it was straight to the penalty shoot out. England felt confident having practised for this very outcome, but the challenge to score within eight seconds from the 23 metre line can still be a nervy affair. Both teams scored their first efforts, but England edged ahead after the respective second shots. They were to never relinquish their lead again as New Zealand missed three of their first four attempts to ensure that England would reach the final by a score of 4 - 2 (3-1 in the penalty shoot out). Maddie Hinch in goal was mobbed by her teammates at the end and rightly so, given the way she excelled at the vital time.

England will now play Australia in the final, who had earlier defeated South Africa in a much more one sided semi final by seven goals to one. They will be strong favourites in the final but if England can cut out the errors and utilise the pace they have going forward, they may yet spring a surprise. After their thrilling semi final win, roll on the final !