Diving gold again for brilliant 17-year-old Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix on final day of Commonwealth Games3 min read
Asked about Ward’s recovery, England captain Zach Wallace said: “It’s incredible, the determination. What he’s been through, that injury would knock most people out, career done.”
Wallace, who was captain for the first time during a major competition, was elated to win a medal following a rocky build-up.
After finding themselves “demotivated and gutted” to lose in the Olympic quarter-finals last year, the team suffered multiple injuries to key players in recent months and played in Birmingham with one member of the squad missing after Brendan Creed was injured in the opening match.
They were also without a permanent head coach for a period following the departure of Danny Kerry at the start of the year, with his successor Paul Revington only taking up the role last month.
“It says volumes about the group, spirit and fight that we have come away with a medal,” said Wallace. “We are in a seriously good place now.”
Much of the action took place in a hectic 12-minute period before half-time, in which six goals were scored.
Matt Guise-Brown, who is a school teacher in north London, Mustapha Cassiem, and Nqobile Ntuli scored for South Africa, while England’s Rhys Smith, Liam Ansell and Ward matched them for a 3-3 scoreline at the break.
Smith’s was the pick of the bunch, when he looked to have run out of space inside the circle, only to turn past one defender, nutmeg another and shoot past the South African keeper.
Roper regained England’s lead and then added a second when he was fortunate to be credited with the slightest touch on Ward’s shot from a tight angle. Captain Wallace stepped up to seal the deal from a penalty stroke with 90 seconds remaining.
After the women’s team won their first ever Commonwealth title on Sunday, Wallace said there is “serious optimism” two years out from the Paris Olympics.
“Going into the tournament we wanted a gold medal and that’s the direction the group wants to go in,” he said. “I’ve been playing for four years now and that’s my first medal. I’m absolutely buzzing and to pick ourselves up from [the semi-final defeat] was great. Our performance wasn’t great but we got over the line in the end.
“We were buzzing for [the women], but at the same time we don’t want them to get too many up on us!
“There is huge excitement building around England hockey, both the men and the women. They are doing incredibly well, winning gold for the first time, and we are definitely on the right track. We want to keep pushing better and better.”
Later, Australia won the gold as they thrashed India 7-0 in the final.
Also, on the last day of the Games, England won three silvers in badminton doubles (men’s, women’s, mixed). Lauren Smith had the bittersweet experience of finishing runner-up twice in a day. Squash veteran James Willstrop and partner James Declan won gold in the doubles.
Final day of the Commonwealth Games, as it happened