Australia have taken a two game lead in their best of five series against Japan after running out 3-1 winners in Saturday night’s Test in Kalgoorlie, WA.
First half goals from Emily Smith and Jodie Schulz (playing under her maiden name due to FIH regulations), who found her range with a penalty corner double, gave the Hockeyroos what was ultimately an unassailable lead. Japan’s late consolation goal from Akane Shibata was deserved after a stronger second half showing from the visitors.
Before the match the Hockeyroos received a double boost with the news that coach Adam Commens has signed a contract extension that will see him lead the team until the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 and major partner Ausdrill has extended its association with the team.
Despite the victory, Commens believed his side could have enjoyed greater success had they made more of their chances.
“In the first half we really dominated the play, we had a lot of opportunities but we were not outstanding in the attacking circle and we could have been up by more at half time,” he said. “[In the] Second half, I thought we needed to be smarter with how we built the ball into the circle, particularly early on in the second half when the Japanese left three forwards out. We had to take advantage of that and score more goals than we did.
“[It was] Pretty disappointing that we allowed them to score late in the game. We need to execute our basic skills a lot better than we did and I think we can definitely perform better than we showed tonight.
“We’re creating a lot of opportunities, we’re dominating possession and we’re dominating territory on the pitch but you need to convert to goals and whilst it converted to goals last night, tonight we found it a bit more difficult. I thought their ‘keeper played well, I thought we just took a bit too long on the ball inside the circle – that’s disappointing.”
Australia’s women threatened early on with a series of three penalty corners, all of which were defended well by the visiting Japanese. In the 15th minute, Ashleigh Nelson picked out Emily Smith with a quick pass across the face of goal and the Crookwell-born forward swept home emphatically to the give the Hockeyroos the lead. Two minutes later Schulz doubled the Hockeyroos’ advantage with a well-placed penalty corner strike into the bottom right of the goal.
Georgie Parker, playing in her 50th international match for Australia, and Georgia Nanscawen both came close before Schulz, from Wamuran in Queensland, doubled her tally with a powerful flick high into the net for 3-0.
The second half saw a more enterprising Japanese side create a few problems for the Australian defence, most notably midway through the half when goalkeeper Ashlee Wells pulled off a smart glove save to her right. At the other end Yuka Yoshikawa kept Japan in the contest with a string of blocks on the ground. Australia won three penalty corners in the final ten minutes but could not find a way beyond Yoshikawa before a late break upfield saw Akane Shibata slot home a consolation goal.
The teams return to Perth for the final three games of the series, which take place on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.