Gold and silver for Aussies at FINA Intercontinental Cup
1 April 2019
WATER POLO: The Aussie Sharks claimed golden victory over Japan in the final round of the FINA World League Intercontinental Cup on the weekend, while the Stingers came agonisingly close, winning silver after a penalty shootout against world no.1, USA.
The strong performances gives the Australians confidence as they prepare for the FINA World League Finals and 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea. The tournaments are crucial events for the team’s ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
It was a fast start to the men’s final with Japan scoring 20 seconds after the opening buzzer. Joe Kayes returned serve and hit the back of Japan’s net 20 seconds after that.
Japan converted a penalty goal but Lachlan Edwards hit back and Nicholas Brooks combined with George Ford to give Australia a 3-2 lead at quarter time.
Japan failed to convert a penalty early in the second, but it wasn’t long before the game was tied 3-3.
Andrew Ford put Australia in front, but Japan scored during their next possession. Australia nudged ahead 7-6 at half time after Lachlan Edwards scored twice and Lachlin Hollis once.
In the third quarter, Edwards scored his fourth of the night, Kayes added a second and Blake Edwards got his first.
Australia secured the 10-8 win with strong defence led by the Australian Captain and goal keeper Joel Dennerley who was outstanding all night.
“We knew that we had to play solid defence,” Dennerley said.
“They’re really aggressive on the drives, we know they take their opportunities at extra man, everyone has a role to play and I was happy to do my job today.
“Definitely a tough contest. We knew they would come out and fight the four quarters. We had a tough round game that went down to the last few seconds, we knew we needed to be switched on from the beginning and play right the way through.
Dennerley said the result will give the team confidence heading into a crucial period.
“This week’s been about us getting together as a team, we’re spread out all across the world and we used the opportunity to play some competitive matches. For the next few months we’ll build towards World League Finals and ultimately World Championships in July.
“Being isolated in Australia from Europe we need to take every opportunity to play some official matches against international opposition. For some of our younger guys who’ve only been in the squad for a few years it’s been a great opportunity to play on home soil in front of a great crowd. So, we’re very privileged to be able to do that," he said.
The Stingers women's team pushed the world’s best, Olympic Champions USA all the way through four quarters and into a penalty shootout.
All of the United States’ first quarter goals were courtesy of penalties.
Showing good team work the Stingers combined together to get off the mark.
Goals were courtesy of Keesja Gofers and Hannah Buckling and a cross pass from Gofers to Amy Ridge levelled scores 3-3 at the first quarter.
The US flexed their muscles in the second, adding a further four goals to their overall score, one coming via a penalty. Lena Mihailovic was Australia’s only goal scorer in the second and Australia was facing an uphill 4-8 deficit.
The Stingers clawed back in the third, courtesy of strong defence which limited the US to one goal. Isobel Bishop had an outstanding quarter saving a goal in defence before scoring herself off a penalty.
Gofers opened scoring in the fourth, bridging the deficit to two goals. A number of influential saves from Gabriella Palm, playing her 50th game for Australia, gave the Aussies a chance.
Rowie Webster converted with five minutes to go and Australia was within a goal’s reach. The Aussies had the crowd and the momentum going their way.
Cool under pressure the Australian Captain, Webster, levelled the score with 40 seconds to go.
The penalty shootout went against the Aussies as they finished 12-14 (9-9 at full time)
Webster said there was plenty to take away from the performance, notably Australia’s ability to keep their counterparts to one goal in the second half.
“(At half time) we spoke about staying calm, staying positive, taking every opportunity and really being aggressive in attack. Our defence followed from that and we shut them out and they started to panic a little.
“To match the best in the world for four quarters is a real step forward for us.
“Anyone can win in penalties and they did so congratulations to the US and we get a second chance, that’s the pleasure of playing sport.
“We’re happy but we’re not necessarily satisfied. This will fuel our fire to come out and train harder. We send some girls overseas and we come back for world league finals so chipping away each day, training hard working collectively together. With a new coaching line up there’s going to be challenges and I think we just proved we’re a threat in the world."