AUSTRALIA marched in to Sunday’s final of the International Festival of Hockey with a Trans Tasman triumph at the State Hockey and Netball Centre last night.
After defeating India in game one on Wednesday, the Kookaburras dispatched New Zealand 3-1 on the back of a blistering start in which a Kieran Govers double and a third from Aaron Kleinschmidt propelled the hosts to a three-goal quarter time lead.
The Black Sticks gained more of a foothold in the second half and Kane Russell pulled a goal back in the 41st minute, but Australia was never really threatened.
India’s 4-2 win over Malaysia in the night’s other game means the Kookaburras will make Sunday’s final regardless of their result against the world No.14 Malaysians tomorrow.
If New Zealand was to defeat India then it may yet face Australia in the final, otherwise it will be the Indians who likely advance.
Kookaburras interim coach Paul Gaudoin wanted better penalty corner defence from his side following Wednesday’s game and he got it as the Black Sticks were twice denied in the second quarter and once again in the third before Russell’s strike.
But Gaudoin’s positive appraisal of the first half was tempered somewhat by the fact his team appeared to play to the scoreboard after the main break.
“It was nice to get off to a good start,” Gaudoin said.
“We got on top towards the end of the first quarter and the second quarter was OK. But the second half we were disappointed in.
“We had a fair bit of the ball, but I think we just lost our desire and intensity to score another goal.
“Consistency over 60 minutes is what we’re chasing. We haven’t had it throughout the tournament, but that’s still the aim.”
Gaudoin made two changes last night, bringing in Scott Boyde and Ben Craig for Trent Mitton and Robert Bell.
Australia’s eighth-minute breakthrough came in stunning fashion.
Flynn Ogilvie did some great work under pressure in midfield before getting it to Jake Whetton who, despite slipping near the top of the circle, managed – while falling – to flick it in to the direction of Govers to score.
His second barely a minute later was a more simple tap in and when Kleinschmidt scored in the 15th minute following a fantastic team build up, a rout appeared on.
Gaudoin said he was pleased to make the final.
“You want to be involved in the main game,” he said.
“To be able to do that is great, but we won’t look at that until after Malaysia.”
Matt Windley, Herald Sun