Great Britain’s men and women began their 2020 FIH Pro League campaigns in dramatic fashion against Australia under the roasting Sydney sun.
The men earned a point against the world’s number one team but would have hoped for more having led 4-2 at the start of the final quarter.
Zach Wallace scored a brilliant individual goal for Danny Kerry’s side while Rupert Shipperley swept home on his debut. Ashley Jackson and Liam Ansell also found the back of the net, while Harry Gibson made several splendid saves in goal. Ian Sloan also made his 50th appearance for Great Britain while Jacob Draper played his 50th combined international for GB and Wales.
A goal just 12 seconds from the end denied the women the same result having dominated large period of the match against the Hockeyroos.
Sarah Robertson had given her team the lead in the 18th minute before Steph Kershaw equalised shortly before half-time.
Both teams had chances to win in the closing stages but it was Grace Stewart who struck to give the hosts all three points.
Australia 4 (2)
Ockenden (19’, PC); Wickham (20’, FG); Zalewski (56’, PC); Mitton (59’, FG)
Great Britain 4 (1)
Jackson (20’, PC); Wallace (31’, FG); Shipperley (44’, FG); Ansell (45’, FG)
Australia win shootout 3-1
The Kookaburras started the brightest under the blistering Sydney sun, with Gibson making a string of crucial saves in the first quarter while Liam Sanford also produced two fine blocks.
Gibson then produced two great saves in a row from an Australian corner but there was nothing he could do to prevent Eddie Ockenden giving the Kookaburras the lead.
GB levelled immediately though through Jackson, having almost taken the lead themselves at the end of the first quarter through Alan Forsyth and Chris Griffiths.
The latter nearly scored again in the 25th minute but his diving attempt flashed wide before Tom Wickham converted a neat team move to give Australia the half-time lead.
Wallace made the already blistering heat rise even further in the second half with his outstanding goal that brought even the home fans to their feet.
Shipperley then converted for the first time in GB colours after another brilliant save from Gibson before less than a minute later Ansell raced through and slammed the ball into the top corner.
Australia added an 11th outfielder for the final ten minutes and made it pay as Aran Zalewski turned in after they won four corners in quick succession.
Trent Mitton then swept home an equaliser with just a minute remaining before the Australians took the extra point by winning the shootout.
Speaking after the game, Wallace said: “It was a tough game, tough opposition and coming our here in 40C. So getting out here and putting in a good performance obviously we’re very happy with, but we’re gutted not to get all three points.
“The goal was great. I picked it up, started running and the next thing I knew I was in the circle. It was a great feeling to score it though.
“We’re going to come back harder tomorrow to secure all three points.”
Starting XI: Taylor, Forsyth, Martin, Roper, Dixon (C), Jackson, Ansell, Gibson (GK), Waller, Gall, Sanford
Subs (Used): Shipperley, Griffiths, Sloan, Sorsby, Wallace, Draper
Subs (Unused): Pinner, Ames, Gleghorne, Calnan
Australia 2 (1)
Kershaw (27’, FG); Stewart (60’, FG)
Great Britain 1 (1)
Robertson (18’, FG)
Rosie Malone had the game’s first clear chance in the sixth minute, seeing her effort deflected wide of the target before Hinch saved the game’s first corner just before the end of the first quarter.
Great Britain then won three corners of their own in quick succession and took the momentum into the second period as Robertson lifted the ball into the net after a goalmouth scramble.
Hannah Martin then hit the post in the 23rd minute and another corner was blocked shortly before Maddie Hinch produced an outstanding save to deny Malone again.
She could do nothing to stop Kershaw’s cute deflection a minute later though as the hosts ensured proceedings were level at half-time.
GB continued to press in the third quarter, with Laura Unsworth and Grace Balsdon coming close to finding the target.
Hinch then produced a great double save with just seven minutes remaining to keep the scores level before Izzy Petter had an effort blocked shortly after.
There was nothing the ‘keeper could do to prevent Stewart from scoring the winner though.
After the game, Robertson said: “The team are gutted to be honest. We shouldn’t have left it to the last 12 seconds, we should have turned the screw earlier and put two or three goals past them. I think we were much better than them to be honest.
“It was a brilliant setting tonight. It was a good game to play in and it was a good performance. Tomorrow we’ll be ready to come back.”
The two will meet again at 6:30am GMT tomorrow morning live on BT Sport.
Starting XI: Hinch (GK), Unsworth, Toman, Martin, Townsend, Robertson, Pearne-Webb (C), Neal, McCallin, Owsley, Petter
Subs (Used): Howard, Jones, Balsdon, Watson, Wilkinson
Subs (Unused): Rayer, Ansley, Hunter, Heesh, Burge