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Kookaburras make it five in a row at FIH Pro League

18 March 2019

HOCKEY: On Saturday, the Kookaburras pushed aside any ill-effects of their flight delay, claiming a victory 3-2 against Argentina at Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre. They then followed up on Sunday against New Zealand, claiming their fifth consecutive win of the newly formed FIH Pro League, 5-1.

During Saturday's match against Argentina  there were 19 penalty corners won with Jeremy Hayward firing in two trademark drag flicks from short corners in the 11th and 15th minutes.

Last year’s World Cup top scorer Blake Govers scored his maiden goal of the FIH Pro League with a 30th minute rocket from a short corner too.

Rio 2016 gold medallists, Argentina rallied in the second half, with goals from Maico Casella (42’) and Juan Catan (51’), also from penalty corners, but Australia fought hard to hold on for the three points.

In Jake Harvie’s 50th match for Australia, Tom Craig and Lachlan Sharp combined early for a half-chance for the Kookaburras which went wide, while Dylan Wotherspoon tested Argentina keeper Juan Vivaldi too.

After Daniel Beale’s fluffed injection from a penalty corner, Australia righted their wrongs from another short corner, with Hayward firing the hosts ahead.

The big Darwin defender added another in near-identical circumstances, rocketing his drag flick beyond Vivaldi with one second left before the quarter-time buzzer.

Govers spurned a 19th minute penalty corner opportunity over the crossbar while some Andrew Charter heroics down the other end ensured it remained 2-0.

Govers added the third shortly prior to half-time, emphatically powering his shot beyond Vivaldi.

Argentina came out after the long interval with intent, as captain Ignacio Ortiz pushed a shot wide after a good one-two.

The visitors got their goal in the 42nd minute with Casella firing high to Charter’s left.

From another penalty corner, Argentina made it 3-2 with Catan’s effort too good for the Canberra keeper.

Argentina pressed hard but couldn’t penetrate the Kookaburras defence in the final minutes with Australia doing enough for the points.

On Sunday, the dominant Kookaburras outplayed trans-tasman rivals New Zealand 5-1, peppering the goals all day, creating 19 shots from 29 circle entries and converting 20 per cent of their penalty corner opportunities.

Australia had four individual goal scorers in Tom Wickham (12’, 32’), Jeremy Hayward (14’), Jack Welch (27’) and Daniel Beale (38’), while New Zealand managed just a single goal through Hayden Phillips (15’). 

Matthew Swann was awarded Player of the Match for his impressive play in the back half. 

In a mark of respect to those affected by the terrible events in Christchurch on Friday, both sides came together and linked arms during a moments silence before the match.

Wickham opened the scoring for Australia getting on the end of a fantastic circle entry from Jake Whetton who wrong-footed multiple New Zealand defenders for the assist in the 11th minute of the match.

Moments later Hayward hit the scoreboard, rocketing a dragflick past New Zealand keeper Richard Joyce and bringing his tally of goals for the weekend to three.

Phillips reduced the Black Sticks' deficit as the first term came to a close, smashing a tomahawk into the backboard off of a penalty corner deflection.

Australia's next goal came late in the second quarter when Whetton once again passed to a teammate after finessing a circle entry, he found Welch open in front of goals who was able to power the shot through for the Kookaburras' third goal.

The third term started as just as the second had ended, Australia was pushing the attack and it only took 90 seconds for them to hit the scoreboard again.

Wickham nailed his second goal for the day, delivering an off-balance shot through New Zealand keeper George Enersen's legs.

In the 38th minute of the match, Daniel Beale stole possession off a New Zealand error and pushed his way into the attacking circle before delivering a powerful stroke past Enersen for Australia's fifth goal.

Tyler Lovell was impressive in the final term, blocking a number of the Black Sticks' penalty corner chances.

The win pushes Australia to top of the FIH Pro League standings while New Zealand remain in last place, with the Kookaburras next match an ANZAC Day clash against New Zealand in Auckland.

Meanwhile, the Hockeyroos had a rough start to their weekend's campaign, going down to Argentina 1-0 and New Zealand 3-1.

Hockey Australia/olympics.com.au

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