Australia: Black Sticks Men keep series alive against Kookaburras

New Zealand’s Men’s Team has ensured the Oceania Cup will go down to the wire after defeating the Kookaburras 4-2 defeat in the second of the three-match series.

After the Kookaburras won the opening match 3-1 on Thursday, the Black Sticks, urged on by a parochial home crowd, played inspired hockey to register their first victory over the Australians since 2016.

The result means the series will come down to tomorrow’s third and final match to decide which team will secure a spot at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (the Oceania Cup is the first opportunity for the teams to qualify).

Knowing another defeat would mean curtains in the series, the Black Sticks came out firing in the opening quarter as the Kookaburras were left staring at a three goal deficit inside 13 minutes.

Sam Lane opened the scoring from open play in the 5th minute before goals from Kane Russell and captain Nic Woods left the Kookaburras with a mountain in front of them.

The positive for the Kookaburras was that they had 45 minutes to manufacture a comeback.

In the 19th minute they found a breakthrough when Tom Craig charged around four New Zealand defenders at the edge of the attacking circle before flicking a clever pass into Jake Whetton on the penalty stroke spot and the midfielder made no mistake hammering home his second goal of the series.

The Kookaburras continued to threaten but were dealt a sucker punch in the 29th minute when Sean Findlay tried his luck from far out on the angle, his shot beating everyone including Australian goalkeeper Johan Durst on its way into the net to make it 4-1 at half time.

Needing quick goals, Josh Beltz and Craig combined but Black Sticks keeper Leon Hayward managed to pad away the eventual shot to safety.

Strong work in the circle from Jack Welch then won the Kookaburras a penalty corner where Leon Hayward took family bragging rights as he saved the drag flick from his brother Jeremy.

However, Jeremy would have his revenge moments later in the Kookaburras’ next penalty corner, Jake Harvie’s perfectly executed trap enabling Hayward to send a laser-like drag flick past his brother into the backboard.

The Kookaburras could sense some nervousness among the Black Sticks as Welch forced a sharp save from Hayward.

However, with so much hinging on the result New Zealand was holding firm.

The Kookaburras won another penalty corner with five minutes to go but could not convert as the Black Sticks continued to repel attacking forays from the Kookaburras to claim a rare victory.

“It’s not an ideal situation to be in,” said Whetton on the Kookaburras finding themselves three goals behind in the opening quarter.

“We slowly fought our way back into the game but it’s very difficult to come back from three-nil down so early.”

“We knew New Zealand were going to have a reaction after the first game. They came out strongly and we weren’t able to match their speed at the start of the game. But it’s a three-match series and all to play for now.”

“We need to stick to our processes. We know when we play our best hockey we can beat anyone, so we’ll go back to the drawing board, review the game and come out firing tomorrow.”

The result sets up a thrilling climax with the final match to be played at the same time tomorrow, with the winner booking their ticket to Paris 2024.

The Oceania Cup is LIVE and free on 7plus.

Match Details
New Zealand 4
(Lane 5’, Russell 7’, Woods 13’, Findlay 29’)
Kookaburras 2 (Whetton 19’, Hayward 34’)
@ Whangarei

Kookaburras: 2.Tom Craig, 4.Jake Harvie, 6.Matthew Dawson, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 8.Johan Durst (gk), 10.Josh Beltz, 11.Eddie Ockenden, 12.Jake Whetton, 13.Blake Govers, 15.Jayden Atkinson, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 20.Ky Willott, 21.Jack Welch, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Daniel Beale, 32.Jeremy Hayward
Unused substitute: 18.Ben Rennie (gk)

Team line-ups

Australia Hockey

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