The Hockeyroos have shocked the Vantage Black Sticks in the last minutes of game two of the Oceania Cup in Rockhampton with a 3-2 win. The result sets up a winner takes all final match on Sunday for the Oceania Cup.
The home side came out firing and immediately put the pressure on the New Zealanders, with the Black Sticks needing to defend well, with Ella Gunsen and Brooke Neal having strong games. Six minutes into the match the Kiwis failed to clear an Australian penalty corner and were punished by Maddy Fitzpatrick, who fired a shot low to goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlons left to put the Hockeyroos up 1-0. Throughout the first quarter the Australian right hand attack was working well, with midfielders Jane Claxton, Maddy Fitzpatrick and Amy Lawton stepping up to challenge the Kiwis.
The Vantage Black Sticks kept in the fight and wrestled their way back into the match, led by the ever-dangerous Stacey Michelsen, who, despite being closely marked by the Hockeyroos, was already proving highly influential in the game. With only 20 seconds to go in the first quarter, the Vantage Black Sticks struck back, with a stunning pass by Julia King finding striker Olivia Merry, unmarked in the circle behind the Australian defence, who provided a deft deflection to grab the equaliser.
New Zealand were more composed and exerted greater control over the match as quarter two got underway, starting to dictate terms and developed well-structured attacks. Yet, with two penalty corners in quick succession, the Kiwis couldn’t manage to crack the Hockeyroos stout defence.
Late in the second quarter Stacey Michelsen proved why she’s rated one of the world’s best with a glorious 50m reverse stick pass cutting open the Australians, to a sprinting Kirsten Pearce, who unfortunately couldn’t control the quick ball and the opportunity was missed. Heading into half time sheds we were tied a one goal a piece.
The third quarter started as the second had finished, with end to end attacks and strong hockey. Three minutes into the half the New Zealand defence made a brilliant scramble with first Grace O’Hanlon then Sam Charlton putting their bodies on the line to save the day from a roaring Australian offense.
The Aussie midfield continued to play well, and they needed to as Michelsen, Charlton and Rose Keddell, in her 200th test for the Vantage Black Sticks remained a constant threat. And it was late in the quarter where the Hockeyroos snatched a breakthrough goal to Brook Peris, after the Kiwis failed to clear an Australian penalty corner, after a fine initial save from netminder O’Hanlon. 2-1 to the Hockeyroos with the fourth and final quarter remaining.
The New Zealanders came out strong clearly not wanting to relinquish their Game one advantage, forced a penalty corner early on. After a powerful strike by Megan Hull, the ball popped up from the Australian defence and it was Ella Gunsen who reacted first pouncing with a quick-fire volley high into the Aussie goal to level the scores at 2-2, much to the delight of the Kiwi contingent in the crowd, who were always vocal throughout the match.
Michelsen continued to exert herself on the match impacting the game with sharp passing and mesmerising dribbles at the Hockeyroos defence, and the Black Sticks needed all her experience along with the other members of the 200 club, as the Australians searched for the winner to bring themselves back into contention for the all-important direct qualification spot for Tokyo 2020.
And so, it proved to be as tiredness and errors stared to creep in as the clock wound down, the Hockeyroos pressed high on the Black Sticks defence forcing a mistake as the Kiwis failed to clear the line. Emily Chalken, after determined work played a sharp pass across the New Zealand circle to find an unmarked Renee Taylor, who slotted home to snatch a last gasp winner to bring the Hockeyroos home 3:2.
Vantage Black Sticks Women 2 (Olivia Merry 15 min, Ella Gunson 47 min)
Hockeyroos 3 (Maddy Fitzpatrick 6 min, Brooke Peris 43 min, Renee Taylor 60 min)