New Zealand has drawn it’s final pool match with Australia 1-1 after a fiercely contested tie between the Trans-Tasman rivals.
The result means the Vantage Black Sticks Women will now play in the cross-over round against Argentina for the right to play Australia again in the Quarter-Final.
Both teams started the match knowing their destiny was in their own hands, a win would mean topping the pool and that all important direct passage to the last eight.
A cagey start to the game in much chiller conditions than previous games in London led to the evenly matched teams cancelling each other out with both sides strong in defence.
It was the Vantage Black Sticks who drew first blood. The breakthrough came in the 13th minute as Australia attempted to play the ball out from the back. Busy Kiwi’s forward Kelsey Smith forced defensive errors from both Jodie Kenny and Georgina Morgan, taking possession and firing in a shot which was saved by Australian goalkeeper Rachael Lynch. New Zealand’s Olivia Merry however was quick to pounce, slotting the rebound home. New Zealand 1-0 up .
It didn’t take the Hockeyroos long however to strike back in the 2nd quarter. The Kiwis goal seemingly spurring the opposition into life. On the 18th minute Edwina Bone fired in a cross from the right flank perfectly into the path of Hockeyroo’s captain Emily Smith, she took two touches to get the ball under control and then calmly finished beneath onrushing goalkeeper Sally Rutherford.
The game had now picked up the pace significantly and it was the Kiwi’s who thought they’d taken the lead when Sam Harrison found herself free in the circle, meeting a cross at speed and attempting a reverse sweep shot into the back of the net. She converted and the Kiwis celebrated. A video referral however showed the striker had clearly hit the ball with the back of her stick and the referee duly awarded Australia a free hit and disallowed the goal.
The game continued to ebb and flow. Late in the 2nd quarter New Zealand pressure led to 3 consecutive penalty corners as New Zealand chased a winner.
The second half started with the teams locked at 1-1 and it was Australia who looked the more likely to score with good possession and powerful counter attacking, the hockeyroos turning the ball over with increasing frequency.
Despite Australia successfully starving New Zealand’s big match players Stacey Michelsen and Anita Mclaren of a supply line, the Kiwi’s shot count continued to rise, Kelsey Smith forcing a great save from the Australian goalkeeper.
As both teams went looking for the winner in the 4th quarter it was New Zealand who came on strong. Good build up play from the the Vantage Black Sticks women led to a fantastic ball into the circle which found Olivia Merry in space, she moved the ball into a shooting position and unleashed a rasping strike towards goal but unfortunately for the Kiwi’s straight into the feet of Rachael Lynch in the Australian goal.
New Zealand’s pressure on the left from Stacey Michelsen and good work from Anita Mclaren in the circle led to another chance, this time falling to Madison Doar who found space before putting the shot wide.
The Kiwi’s pushed on with more than 55% of the possession and 4 shots to Australia’s 1 in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough and the Hockeyroo’s held firm.
Vantage Black Sticks Women’s coach Mark Hager said it was gut-wrenching not to win the game and top the group especially after recording 17 shots to Australia’s 9.
“It was a typical Aussie against New Zealand battle both teams had chances to win the game, probably just our inability in front of goal has hurt us a bit which is disappointing.”
The team now faces world ranked number 3 side Argentina in a cross-over match. Hager said his team will be ready to go again.
“We’re confident with every game we go into and we’ll prepare well and just come out and play our game and do things well.”
That game can be seen on Sky Sports at 7:15am on Tuesday 31st July.