Wales Men beat hosts, Croatia 9-0 in their final Hockey Open Series round-robin match in Zagreb on Saturday evening to finish second and qualify for the Hockey Series Finals.
Austria finished top after a clinical 15-1 thrashing of Slovakia, leaving Wales to battle with Croatia for the second qualifying place.
Surbiton’s Gareth Furlong scored four goals to finish as the second top scorer in the tournament behind Austria’s Michael Körper. Körper scored ten goals, one ahead of Furlong’s nine, two scored against in the 6-1 win over Slovakia and the remaining hat-trick attained in the 7-1 victory over Switzerland.
Wales were seeded second according to the world rankings. Wales (WR 24) faced a Croatia team ranked seventeen places below them and only needed three minutes to breach the Croatian defence. Up stepped Furlong to rifle home a drag flick from a penalty corner to set Wales on the path to victory.
In the 6th minute, Owain Dolan Gray doubled the Welsh lead from a penalty corner, with Benjamin Francis enabling Wales to end the first quarter with a 3-0 lead with an open play goal in the 14th minute.
Furlong scored Wales’ fourth goal in the 19th minute as Croatia only conceded one goal in the second quarter.
Croatia weren’t so lucky in the third quarter, Furlong completing his hat-trick in the 38th minute with a third successive penalty corner before Dolan Gray scored the sixth Welsh goal two minutes later at the right post a minute from the end of the third quarter, Furlong scored his fourth goal of the match, this time from the penalty spot, Croatian goalkeeper, Hrvoje Fijucek beaten with a shot to his left.
Francis added Wales’ eighth goal in the 48th minute with Rhys Bradshaw completing the scoring with six minutes remaining.
Furlong and his Surbiton team-mate Lewis Prosser were both in the Welsh starting lineup.
More information about the tournament can be found at the FIH Altius website
The match against Croatia can be seen on the FIH’s channel on You Tube