The Hockeyroos have firmed up their grip on a top four spot in the FIH Pro League standings with an impressive 5-1 win over New Zealand in Auckland on Thursday.
Grace Stewart scored a brace after goals from Kaitlin Nobbs (2’), Emily Chalker (21’) and Savannah Fitzpatrick (31’) set up the victory in the Hockeyroos’ first away fixture of their FIH Pro League campaign.
New Zealand dominated the key statistics with more shots, circle penetrations and penalty corners but Australia were clinical in front of goal, converting all five of their shots into goals.
Nobbs and Chalker netted first-half goals but the Black Sticks threatened a second-half fightback when Deanna Ritchie pulled a controversial goal back on the stroke of half-time.
Like in the first-half, Australia started the second 30 in style, with Fitzpatrick firing under New Zealand keeper Grace O’Hanlon and the visitors never looked back.
The victory, in the first-ever Anzac Day match between the two nations, means Australia moves to 17 points ahead of their match away to Argentina on Sunday 5 May (AEST).
Player of the Match Jane Claxton said: “We’ve had some games where we haven’t put goals in the back of the net.
“Today it wasn’t just our PCs, it was team goals. We built up from the back. It’s slowly coming together.”
In 17-year-old Amy Lawton’s debut, Australia raced out of the blocks with Nobbs opening the scoring, when she injected a penalty corner and then deflected Jodie Kenny’s flick into the back of the net.
New Zealand thought they’d levelled in the 10th minute when Megan Hull’s pinpoint throughball found Olivia Shannon inside the D.
Shannon jinked and fired beyond Hockeyroos keeper Ash Wells but an umpire referral revealed her shot came from her backstick and was disallowed.
Stewart set up Australia’s second goal in the 21st minute when her left-flank run opened up an opportunity for captain Chalker who unleashed an exquisite near-post shot into the backboard.
Hull came close from a 27th minute short corner, before NZ captain Stacey Michelsen also tested Wells.
New Zealand pulled one back in the final minute of the first half, although it wasn’t without controversy, with the pass into the circle appearing dangerous while Ritchie’s deflection seemed to come off her leg. Australia had already lost their referral and thus the goal stood.
The Hockeyroos didn’t allow the setback to get to them, starting the second half perfectly when Lily Brazel pounced in midfield and set Savannah Fitzpatrick free. Fitzpatrick shot low and hard under O’Hanlon to make it 3-1.
Australia substitute keeper Rachael Lynch produced a stunning double save to deny FIH Pro League top scorer Olivia Merry and Michelsen in the 35th minute.
The visitors ran away with the game in the final 10 minutes thanks to a double from Gerringong product Stewart.
Rosie Malone and Brooke Peris combined in the 52nd minute to find Stewart to make it 4-1, before she added her second to cap another fine team move in the 58th minute.
Australia 5 (Nobbs 2′, Chalker 21′, S. Fitzpatrick 31′, Stewart 53′, 58′)
New Zealand 1 (Ritchie 30′)
Images: World Sport Pics | Simon Watt