The Kookaburras have commenced their World Cup defence with a hard-fought 2-1 win over world number 10 Ireland in Bhubaneswar, India, on Friday night.
Tim Brand scored the decisive goal in the 34th minute after a inch-perfect pass from Corey Weyer on a fast break to get the world number one Australians off to a winning start as they chase a third straight world title.
Blake Govers opened the scoring with an 11th minute drag flick but Ireland replied two minutes later through Shane O’Donoghue.
Australia were good value for the win with 16-3 shots, 28-5 circle penetrations and 6-1 penalty corners.
Match-winner Brand, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday, said: “We played very well but so did Ireland. Great crowd and I couldn’t have asked for anything better to celebrate my birthday.”
The Kookaburras are next in action from 12:30am AEDT on Wednesday morning against world number seven England.
Brand added: “England is our next game and they’re always a tough opposition. They’re a great team. They’re all quality. We’ll do our homework and hopefully get the win.”
Ireland had the first chance of the game with Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter called upon to make a double save from Sean Murray and Matthew Nelson in the third minute.
Australia won the first penalty corner of the game in the 10th minute, after a referral denied the Kookaburras a penalty stroke.
However, the top-ranked Aussies made the short corner count at the second attempt, with Govers powering his shot past Ireland keeper David Harte.
In the 13th minute, Murray threaded a well-weighted pass into the D for O’Donoghue to poke past Charter to equalise.
Dylan Wotherspoon tested Harte with an 18th minute shot, while Charter blocked O’Donoghue’s 20th minute shot from a PC.
Australia came close to taking the lead in the 26th minute from a penalty corner when Daniel Beale’s miscued injection led to a goalmouth scramble but Ireland somehow survived.
After the break, the Kookaburras restored their advantage on a fast break which Brand started in defence, with Weyer’s perfect pass allowing the young forward to shoot past Harte at the second attempt.
Trent Mitton, Jeremy Hayward and Tom Craig all had further chances on goal in the third period as Australia chased a third goal to reiterate their lead.
Ireland were unable to create any clear-cut chances to threaten Australia’s goal as the Kookaburras wasted time in the final minutes to secure three points to start the World Cup.
Australia 2 (Govers 11′, Brand 34′)
Ireland 1 (O’Donoghue 13′)
Images: World Sport Pics