Saturday, June 22, 2024

Hockey Pro League: Australia men shave Great Britain in physical clash

London — The shuddering thuds of the backboard sounded the arrival of the Kookaburras in town as Australia edged Great Britain in a typically rambunctious clash 3-2 on Saturday afternoon. 

The Pro League’s top scorer Blake Govers, fresh from a morning shave, proved a cut above with two penalty corner goals either side of half-time to deny GB a fifth straight win in their quest for the Pro League title and fall to their fourth defeat in five (in normal time) against Colin Batch’s side.

It was rough and tumble stuff – Flynn Ogilvie pushing Will Calnan at pace, underlining the old rivalry – but the difference here was GB’s off-the-boil ball possession, so clinical throughout this mini tournament, which allowed Australia, with major league baseball taking place nearby, to take strike one of their two games here.

Andrew Charter, Australia’s goalkeeper, said: “Tensions got a bit flared and there was a lot of body in the game. But it was a passionate one and no one really stepped over the line and it was a great battle out there.

“Blake is one of the hardest flickers in the world. Only someone who flicks it that hard can have such a rude haircut. He went into the village today and really shaved down the sides and it looked pretty gross.”

The likes of Ollie Payne, booting and clearing throughout today, Rupert Shipperley, James Oates and captain David Ames had returned for GB as Paul Revington rotated his squad once again.

And this powerhouse encounter was played at pace from the off, the hosts shading the opening salvos. Midway through the first quarter GB won their first corner. Jacob Draper fed Welsh compatriot Gareth Furlong, who netted via a Kookaburra body. Australia referred, claiming the ball was going wide with Furlong’s initial strike, with no advice possible.

GB got a first sight of Govers with over five minutes left of the quarter. A second bite of his fearsome power was sent low to Payne’s left, ending with a traditional fist pump from the Wollongong flicker.

Enter Zach Wallace for GB. The playmaker won a turnover in his half, was hauled down in the counter as he raced upfield, before the ball fell to Tom Sorsby. His pass back into the circle was, fortuitously, then deflected off Wallace’s stick and looped over Charter. After a lengthy video review, the goal stood. 

There was no doubting Australia’s equaliser. After increased pressure, and a Liam Sanford PC block, Tom Wickham smashed in on the turn at the top of the D. A minute later, Payne was again forced into a telling block, Arun Zaleswki unable to scoop home.

Joshua Beltz won Australia’s fifth PC with a fine run across the circle. Govers did the rest, pure shoulder power threading a flick in between Sorsby and Payne.

GB needed circle penetration and they got a stab with nine minutes left, Sam Ward sending a flick down Charter’s lines, and Sorsby’s reverse flick cleared by Ogilvie off the line. Pinning Australia back in their 23m, Lee Morton had the next sight in goal, controlling an aerial into the circle but his shot went over.

“We are pretty disappointed and physically it was a tough battle as always,” Wallace said afterwards. “On the ball we weren’t as good as we expected of ourselves. We gave them far too many chances to counter.”

Total Hockey

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