The Hockeyroos have secured top spot in Pool D to progress straight into the 2018 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw with New Zealand in London on Sunday morning (AEST).
Australia captain Emily Smith scored the equalising goal on her 26th birthday in the 18th minute after Olivia Merry put the Black Sticks ahead in the 13th minute.
Both sides came close to winning goals in the second half but Australia did enough to settle for the draw which secured top spot after Belgium defeated Japan 6-3 earlier in the day in the other pool match.
Australia finished top of Pool D and heads for the quarter-finals on Wednesday with five points from three matches.
Belgium and New Zealand finished second and third respectively, meaning they’re both headed for the sudden death playoffs on Monday.
The Hockeyroos will play the winner of Argentina-New Zealand’s playoff from 5.15am Thursday LIVE on FOX SPORTS.
“We were really happy with that effort tonight so well done to our girls.”
She added: “We knew it was going to come down to the death tonight. They’re always fiery and it’s always a great competitive match.”
Little separated the sides on the statistics count with 18-17 circle penetrations and 52-48% possession in New Zealand’s favour, while both teams had six penalty corners each.
New Zealand won the first penalty corner of the contest, with Anita McLaren’s shot blocked in the fourth minute.
Smith found space inside the circle in the 10th minute but spurned her chance, while Kalindi Commerford limped off with an injury early too.
Moments later, New Zealand went ahead when Merry swooped on a loose ball to convert into the backboard after Hockeyroos goalkeeper Rachael Lynch had slid in to block Kelsey Smith’s chance.
Emily Hurtz forced Black Sticks keeper Sally Rutherford into a save almost immediately, but Australia didn’t have to wait long to equalise through the skipper.
Stephanie Kershaw released Edwina Bone on the right flank and her cutback found Smith, who slid her shot under the on-rushing Rutherford for 1-1.
The Black Sticks mounted the pressure with three consecutive 24th minute penalty corners, with Brooke Neal’s shot going wide of the target and Stacey Michelsen’s attempted deflection.
New Zealand thought they had restored their lead when Samantha Harrison converted on a 27th minute counter-attack but Australia successfully reversed the decision on referral for using the back of the stick.
The Hockeyroos won a short corner immediately after the long interval with Kenny shooting narrowly wide, while the dangerous Michelsen flashed a 38th minute shot wide after Lynch had kicked away Smith’s effort.
Lynch saved from Merry early in the last, before Madison Doar shot wide of the Australia goal shortly after too.
Kenny had a late drag flick blocked well by Neal as New Zealand removed goalkeeper Rutherford in the final minutes chasing a winner and top spot but Australia held on.
Australia 1 (Smith 18′)
New Zealand 1 (Merry 13′)