The world number one Kookaburras have lost the final of the Darwin International Hockey Open (DIHO) to second-ranked Argentina in an entertaining 2-1 defeat on Saturday night.
Kieran Govers (19’) scored his first goal for Australia in almost two years to put the Kookaburras ahead from a penalty corner but the visitors hit back to take the win.
Matias Paredes (24’) and captain Pedro Ibarra (37’) scored the goals for Argentina, who will take a major confidence boost into the World Cup in November and December in India.
The DIHO matches were Australia’s last before the World Cup, although the squad will have a training camp in Perth in October to help finalise selection.
Kookaburras defender and Darwin local Jeremy Hayward said: “We improved in every game which was good, even if we didn’t win in the end.
“We’re looking forward to the future, which is the World Cup so this is great preparation for that.”
Earlier, the opening 10 minutes were cagy with no clear-cut chances with Ignacio Ortiz’s flick which went wide the best early opportunity.
Australia went up a level late in the first 15, with Tom Craig released by Dylan Wotherspoon in the 13th minute but denied when in on goal but an onrushing Argentina keeper Juan Vivaldi.
Vivaldi came to the visitors’ rescue again two minutes later in a one-on-one against Wotherspoon, although Aran Zalewski’s follow-up found Kieran Govers whose deflection was also saved.
The Kookaburras won the first penalty corner of the game in the 19th minute and Govers, who hadn’t scored since November 2016, fired past Vivaldi in style with a sublime drag flick.
Argentina responded swiftly, with Juan Lopez’s pinpoint diagonal ball finding Matias Paredes who deflected past Kookas keeper Tyler Lovell in the 24th minute.
Hayward had the first genuine chance of the second-half when his 34th minute drag flick was saved to Vivaldi’s right.
Kookas second-half keeper Andrew Charter saved from Martin Ferreiro’s angled effort after a Flynn Ogilvie turnover in midfield.
One minute later, the visitors went ahead when the experienced Ibarra shot low to Charter’s left from a second consecutive short corner.
Australia tried to muster a response, with Craig’s low ball across goal in the 54th minute almost finding Wotherspoon.
Matthew Swann produced some magic down the right flank to win a penalty corner which Vivaldi saved after Hayward laid off for Govers.
The Kookaburras’ search for an equaliser, including removing Charter in the dying minutes, but they fell short in their final official matches ahead of the World Cup.
Australia 1 (Kieran Govers 19’)
Argentina 2 (Matias Paredes 24’, Pedro Ibarra 37’)