Australia progressed to Sunday’s final to face Germany with a hard-fought draw against hosts Great Britain who will have to content themselves with the 3rd/4th playoff against India.
A see-saw battle was witnessed by a partisan home crowd with Great Britain taking the lead twice, before falling behind and equalising through Ashley Jackson late on.
The opening moments of the game were fairly evenly-contested. Great Britain broke forward with purpose, Ashley Jackson getting on the ball and trying to thread passes through to the forwards at every opportunity. At the other end, James Fair did well to keep out Eddie Ockenden, before the Cannock goalkeeper was relieved to see Glenn Simpson’s brilliantly improvised deflection creep past the far post in the 12th minute.
On 19 minutes, Glenn Kirkham did well to win a penalty corner for his team. With both Ashley Jackson and Richard Smith off the field, James Tindall took on the responsibility and sent a low flick into the goal in between goalkeeper Nathan Burgers and the man on the post. It was the Surbiton man’s first goal of the competition.
With 25 minutes on the clock Australia should have equalised, but somehow Russell Ford conspired to miss from 3 yards with the goal at his mercy.
His misery was short-lived however as a minute later Australia were level. A strong run from Liam De Young created an opening for Matt Ghodes, who beat James Fair at his near post.
Great Britain were level for four minutes. They went in front again from an unlikely source. The penalty corner was not trapped properly causing Ashley Jackson to pass to Richard Alexander. Alexander sent a shot past Burgers and into the corner to re-assert the home side’s lead.
With time in the half running out, Eddie Ockenden’s tame effort on goal somehow squeezed through Fair’s legs and Jason Wilson prodded home from close range to restore parity.
Immediately after the restart, Australia almost went ahead: Ian Lewers lost the ball coming out of defence, Ockenden found Jason Wilson who was denied by an excellent save from Fair.
The Kookaburras won a number of penalty corners; first Joel Carroll slapped goal wards, but was kept out by the British goalkeeper, then Christopher Ciriello and Kieran Govers were also denied. The game was fast becoming Fair vs Australia as the Cannock goalkeeper was keeping his side afloat.
With 52 minutes gone, Australia finally got the goal their efforts deserved: a shot at goal from a penalty corner hit James Tindall on the line, conceding a penalty stroke. Despite Fair’s heroics up until this point, the goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Simon Orchard’s penalty winging into the roof of the net.
Great Britain were handed a lifeline in the 66th minute as Nathan Burgers conceded a penalty corner. Up stepped the talismanic Ashley Jackson who gave the goalkeeper no chance, sending a bullet of a drag flick into the top corner.
A draw would not be enough for Great Britain, however with the clock running down, Australia maintained possession of the ball and held on for a draw and a place in the final.
In truth, Great Britain will feel fortunate to have managed a draw in this game. For large periods of the second half, they struggled to come to terms with Australia’s high press, resorting to long balls and turning over a lot of possession. Were it not for the efforts of James Fair in the home goal, the scoreline would have been very different. A lot of positives will come out of this, but in the end, the hosts came up just short.