Dylan Wotherspoon scored a hat-trick as the Kookaburras qualified for Saturday night’s Darwin International Hockey Open (DIHO) final against world number two Argentina after a 3-0 win over Japan on Friday evening.
— The DragFlick™ (@thedragflick) September 21, 2018
Tom Craig set up both of Murwillumbah product Wotherspoon’s first-half goals which arrived in the ninth and 30 minutes, the latter with three seconds left in the half.
Craig laid off for Kieran Govers to set up Wotherspoon’s third to complete his hat-trick early in the final quarter in a dominant display by the Kookas at the Marrara Hockey Centre.
The result means world number one Australia will play world number two Argentina in Saturday’s final from 7pm local time.
Argentina defeated the Kookaburras 2-0 on Wednesday night, although Australia won a DIHO warm-up clash 1-0 on Sunday at the same venue.
Meanwhile, Japan will play Malaysia in the third place match from 5pm local time. Malaysia lost 3-2 to Argentina earlier on Friday.
Wotherspoon said: “It was a step-up from last game so were pretty happy with that but we’ve still got to step up a few levels against Argentina tomorrow.”
In the third minute, Craig shot wide after being released by Daniel Beale before Wotherspoon broke the deadlock.
The pacey Craig burst out of midfield again after a steal, firing a pass to Wotherspoon which he coolly deflected beyond committed Japan keeper Yuri Arnould.
Arnould denied Craig minutes later, while Wotherspoon hooked a chance over the bar from Flynn Ogilvie’s cutback as Australia dominated the opening 15.
Tim Brand shot high early in the second before chaos inside the D when Arnould saved Wotherspoon’s 28th minute deflection as well as Beale’s angled follow-up.
The Japan keeper kept the margin to one goal again, with some more fine blocks to deny Jeremy Hayward and Wotherspoon from a penalty corner, but Australia added a second right on the buzzer.
Craig was the provider again with Wotherspoon finishing in carbon copy style.
Australia goalkeeper Tyler Lovell was brought into the game in the 34th minute when Kazuma Murata fired an angled shot at him.
Wotherspoon teed up Craig for a tough chance from a volley which went wide while Seren Tanaka went on an elusive which ended with another Lovell save.
Japanese substitute keeper Takashi Yoshikawa produced a triple save from a penalty corner in the 43rd minute, including saving from fourth-gamer Josh Simmonds.
Gold Coast-based Wotherspoon got his third and Australia’s third early in the last quarter, capping off a wonderful move which involved Govers and Craig.
Corey Weyer tested Yoshikawa again while Japan had a series of penalty corners to put Australia under pressure but it ended 3-0.
Australia 3 (Wotherspoon 9’, 30’, 47’)