The Kookaburras have produced a performance of the highest order in Eindhoven, crushing the world number one ranked Netherlands 7-2 in the FIH Pro League.
It was a Kookaburras team at its ruthless and clinical best. Tom Craig and Nathan Ephraums both scored twice, while Lachlan Sharp, Jeremy Hayward and Blake Govers also found the back of the net as the Kookaburras stunned the Dutch in front of their home crowd.
With Australia’s Under 21 Men’s Hockey Team the Burras watching on in the stands, the Kookaburras’ demolition job was accentuated by a four goal burst in five scintillating first half minutes.
Welcoming five players back into the team who had just completed a club season in Europe, the Kookaburras went ahead in the 12th minute.
Eddie Ockenden, playing in his 421st international, produced a sublime pass that sliced through the Netherlands defence for Craig who rifled a shot into the back of the net.
The goal triggered a Kookaburras avalanche as Sharp struck three minutes later after being set up by a superb reverse stick pass from Daniel Beale.
Ephraums followed suit moments later courtesy of persistence in the circle from Tim Brand, before James Collins glided into the circle and put the ball on a plate for Craig to ram home his second within a blink of an eye.
A 4-0 score line after 17 minutes became 5-0 in the 22nd minute when Hayward converted a trademark drag flick.
At the other end of the pitch, the Kookaburras were limiting the Netherlands’ chances and effectiveness. Goalkeeper Andrew Charter was called on to make a couple of sharp saves before the Dutch eventually pegged a goal back just before half time through Miles Bukkens.
Some great work in the circle from Collins saw the Kookaburras earn two penalty corners in the early stages of the third quarter.
On the second one, Govers had his drag flick saved by Pirmin Blaak but from the follow up, the ball deflected out allowing Govers to hammer the ball into the back of the net to make it 130 international goals from 141 international appearances for the Kookaburras striker.
Ephraums completed the rout with his second in the 49th minute before Ash Thomas became the 443rd player to represent the Kookaburras when he replaced Charter in goal with nine minutes remaining.
Bukkens scored a late consolation goal for the hosts but it could not take the gloss off of a stellar start to the Kookaburras’ European tour.
“It has been a difficult period for our group. We have had some guys in Europe and guys missing tours for various reasons so we wanted to focus on ourselves today and the big thing was we were really efficient in front of goal and defending the goal,” said Craig.
“The energy was really good. There was a good feeling out there and things were clicking well.”
The teams will meet again early morning Australian time on Tuesday. The FIH Pro League matches are broadcast LIVE on FOX Sports and Kayo.
Netherlands 2 (Bukkens 29’/53’)
Kookaburras 7 (Craig 12’/17’, Sharp 15’, Ephraums 16’/49’, Hayward 24’, Govers 35’)
@ Oranje-Rood Stadium, Eindhoven
Kookaburras: 1.Lachlan Sharp, 2.Tom Craig, 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Matthew Dawson, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 9.Jacob Anderson, 10.Josh Beltz, 11.Eddie Ockenden, 13.Blake Govers, 16.Tim Howard, 20.Ky Willott, 23.Daniel Beale, 26.James Collins, 29.Tim Brand, 30.Andrew Charter (gk) (c), 32.Jeremy Hayward, 48.Davis Atkin, 49.Ash Thomas (gk)