Johnson took his twenty-two women senior squad over to Antibes to play a 3-test series against France in preparation for the FIH Hockey Series Finals due to be held in Valencia this coming June.
Test 1 saw a hard, contested battle against France, with both team’s strong defence preventing each other from scoring. Pushing and testing each other into the fourth quarter, home team France eventually crossed the line and scored the first goal of the series in the 48thminute. Wales reacted quickly, working together as a unit to respond and equalise with a goal from Sian French in the 54thminute. With 6 minutes remaining, France scored a last-minute goal and won the first test 2-1.
Test 2 saw yet another contested game of hockey with a goalless first half. Wales opened the scoring in the 33rdminute with a successful strike from Phoebe Richards, but it wasn’t long before France responded and equalised 3minutes later. Going into the fourth quarter with a 1-1 score, both teams were desperate to win, with France scoring and taking a 2-1 lead in the 48thminute. The test ended with another 2-1 defeat.
Test 3 saw a very sunny St David’s day out in France, with Wales attacking from the outset. Sophie Robinson, a welcomed returnee to the set up, and Beth Bingham both scoring a goal in the first 10 minutes to get the Welsh girls of to a roaring start. A goalless second quarter saw Wales leading 2-0 at half time. Confident and full of energy, Wales started off the second half with a goal in the 33rdminute from Phoebe Richards which gave them to a 3-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Another goal from Phoebe Richards in the 50thminute (her third goal of the series) took Wales to a 4-0 lead. Cerys Preston, who earned her first senior cap during this series, added her first senior international goal to her achievements with a last second goal to secure a 5-0 win. Catching up with Preston after the series, she said ‘It was an amazing experience to be called up last minute to get my first cap! I learnt loads and topped it off with scoring my first senior goal!’.Along with Preston, Sara Davies and Elizabeth Jones also received their first Senior Caps during the series. A great way to round off a fantastic series and especially St David’s Day.
Head Coach Kevin Johnson spoke to us after the 3-test series in France.
‘Any opportunity to spend 5 days of contact time with the squad is valuable and this proved to be the case in Antibes. We were able to quickly progress and develop some core themes of our play and this was demonstrated in the improvement in quality and performances between the first two games and the third. I was delighted to see Sophie Robinson back in a Wales shirt and looking threatening throughout the week as well as being able to expose more new players to International Hockey in Lizzie Jones, Sara Davies and Cerys Preston who all contributed well.
Results wise it was obviously disappointing to lose the first two games after creating far more opportunities than our opponents in both, but credit must go to France who were excellent hosts and were very competitive and took their chances well to win the opening matches. It took us a while to get back up to International match quality and intensity in truth, but I was very pleased with the last game and the emphatic score line, an indication that we do have the quality to punish teams but must find this with more consistency moving forwards.
A good week away as a squad in good conditions to play Hockey in. We look forward to using this to kick start our match and tournament activity in 2019 for both senior and U21 squads. ‘
The 18-player squad also took confidence from the trip away, with Senior Women’s Captain Leah Wilkinson explaining:
‘The France series was a brilliant opportunity to take a number of players from our squad to play in three really competitive matches. The matches asked us several questions of us and as a squad we grew with each game, resulting in a 5-0 win in the last game. It was great to see 3 players earn their 1st caps and shows the strength in depth this squad now has. This trip was just the start of a big summer ahead for us, with France coming to Cardiff at the end of May, as well as a trip to Valencia for the open series and Glasgow for the Europeans. It’s certainly an exciting time’.