Goals from Ashleigh Nelson, Kellie White and Emily Smith clinched this Investec World League competition for the Hockeyroos and sent a big crowd home disappointed, as England came up short in the face of a superb display from Adam Commens’ team.
Having overcome world number two Argentina 24 hours earlier, hopes were high for Jason Lee’s side, but Australia executed their plan to perfection and continued their excellent recent form to come out on top.
In the seventh minute Ashleigh Nelson drew a good save out of Maddie Hinch from close range. Australia didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough, however. Twelve minutes in Kellie White drove along the baseline on the right and cut the ball back to Nelson who made no mistake from close range. It was a well-worked goal and gave Hinch no chance at all.
England’s biggest threat in the first 20 minutes came in the shape of 18-year-old Lily Owsley. The Bristol Firebrands striker’s direct running and excellent close control started to unsettle the Hockeyroos backline but Australia were soon able to re-assert their authority.
With 23 minutes gone Australia scored their second goal. A superb run down the right from Edwina Bone caused havoc in the home defence, Bone hit the baseline and cut back for White who gleefully took the chance.
Casey Eastham tested Hinch’s reflexes but the former Leicester goalkeeper was up to the task.
Australia thought they’d made it 3-0 with a Jodie Schulz penalty corner but England successfully used their video referral to have the goal chalked off. Australia forced another penalty corner but Ashleigh Ball was out like lightning to charge down Anna Flanagan’s shot.
After half time England tried manfully to get back into the contest. Susannah Townsend picked up a loose ball and drove into the D but her reverse stick shot went over the top.
Ball did well again to charge down another Flanagan penalty corner with Hinch doing brilliantly to save the rebound from Karri McMahon. At the other end, Nicola White pulled away into space in the D and brought the ball under control brilliantly, but she snatched at her shot and the ball was cleared.
Jodie Schulz resumed her personal battle with Hinch firing in a penalty corner which the Holcombe goalkeeper saved and then forcing an even better save from the 24-year-old diving to her right and getting a good solid stick to the ball as it was heading into the bottom corner.
Australia again thought they’d found a third but again England successfully referred and Georgie Parker’s goal was ruled out.
With ten minutes to play Australia made the game safe. A lovely run and pass from Emily Hurtz put Smith in the clear and she managed to get to the ball just in time to send it past the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 3-0.
England went to a kicking back to try and gain an advantage from an extra field player but by now the game was up.
Adam Commens, Australia Coach was delighted with his team’s efforts: “Our last two games in the tournament were our two best performances, which is what you wish for in these competitions.” He added: “We’re a work in progress with 9 new players since the Olympics, 5 of those are eligible for the Junior World Cup so we’re excited for the future and pleased to win a competition against quality opposition.”
Jason Lee, England coach was also very positive: “Obviously we’re disappointed with the result today, but i’m pleased with the tournament overall. Three months ago we were worried about qualification for the World Cup, so we’re delighted we’ve smashed that.” He continued: “There was plenty of skill, commitment and effort from the girls and we scored a lot of open play goals so all in all it’s very positive.”
For England there was much to be positive about. Lee has said that the best way to learn international hockey is to play it against good teams. There is no doubt that many lessons have been learnt by this squad which will stand them in good stead.
For Australia, Adam Commens continues to shape them into a side to be respected and feared. Their high energy press and their pace on the break will cause even the best teams problems.
It may not have been the result the home crowd wanted, but it was a very impressive game to watch, bringing the curtain down on a hugely enjoyable week of hockey.
See you in The Hague!