Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Match
England 2 Australia 1
A week after football came home following the Lionesses’ Women’s Euro Championship victory, it was hockey’s turn to come home on a Commonwealth basis as England beat Australia 2-1 at the University of Birmingham to win the Commonwealth Games gold medals for the first time in their history.
England had won the EuroHockey Championships at Lee Valley in 2015, but were still waiting for their first Commonwealth title, having been robbed by the Hockeyroos in 2014 in Glasgow, losing out on a shootout after Australia equalised from a penalty corner in the last minute of a 70 minute contest.
Australia scored in the last minute of a 60 minute encounter in 2022, but with only 19.4 seconds remaining and England leading 2-1, there was no time for the Southern Hemisphere side to find an equaliser.
England also had the unique record of conceding two goals in the tournament, both from penalty corners and both in the 60th minute after India had scored in their Pool game to make the final score 3-1 to England.
Mariah Williams had the Hockeyroos’ first shot in the first minute and Flora Peel tested Aleisha Power in the second as both teams took time to settle down with gold medals at stake.
Williams also had a shot blocked in the tenth minute before Australia made what could have been a very costly error in challenging England’s first penalty corner award in the 12th minute. They lost their right to video referral in the process but had some compensation as Grace Balsdon had two shots saved and another blocked as Australia defended three successive penalty corners.
Lily Owsley had a shot blocked near the end of the first quarter, but it was the second quarter which was to prove decisive in deciding where the Commonwealth title was going to reside for the next four years.
Jane Claxton had a shot blocked and Sophie Hamilton forced another save from Power but shortly afterwards, in the 22nd minute, Flora Peel crossed for Holly Hunt to put England ahead.
Four minutes later, England doubled their lead, Shona McCallin finding Peel whose cross was deflected brilliantly by Howard, giving Power no chance.
Australia forced their first penalty corner in the penultimate minute of the second quarter, but Penny Squibb was thwarted by Fiona Crackles’ bravery in blocking the shot.
Australia naturally took the game to England at the start of the third quarter in trying to mount a comeback but chances were few and far between until the 39th minute when Stephanie Kershaw’s lob shot was gloved away by England goalkeeper Maddie Hinch with Shanea Tomkin warned for dangerously challenging Hinch.
That was probably the nearest anybody came to being shown a card with nobody being suspended during the whole sixty minutes. England went close to a third goal, Anna Toman’s shot deflected against the left post before the ball sped across goal and away to safety from England’s fourth penalty corner and with time running out at the end of the third quarter, Ellie Rayer made a hurried shot into the side netting from the left of the circle.
Claxton tested Hinch in the first thirty seconds of the fourth quarter and Howard saw her shot saved by Power while Sophie Hamilton shot over the bar with Australia still trailing 2-0 with five minutes to play.
Australia forced three successive penalty corners in the 55th minute, but England held out with Hinch making a triple save from the first as Renee Taylor, Kaitlin Nobbs and Williams all failed to bring the Hockeyroos back in the match; and Maddy Fitzpatrick having shots blocked twice.
England lost their video referral challenging Australia’s fifth penalty corner and although Rosie Malone finally made the breakthrough it was too late and England made history.
Scorers: Holly Hunt 22-F, Tess Howard 26-F
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK); Laura Unsworth, Anna Toman, Hannah Martin, Ellie Rayer, Izzy Petter, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Lily Owsley, Flora Peel.
Subs: Holly Hunt (3 mins), Tess Howard (4), Shona McCallin (4), Grace Balsdon (4), Lily Walker (5), Sophie Hamilton (5).
Sub not used: Sabbie Heesh (GK).
Scorer: Rosie Malone 60-PC
Starters: Amy Lawton, Penny Squibb, Aleisha Power (GK), Maddy Fitzpatrick, Greta Hayes, Stephanie Kershaw, Kaitlin Nobbs, Jane Claxton (Capt.), Renee Taylor, Mariah Williams, Grace Stewart.
Subs: Rosie Malone (2 mins), Shanea Tomkin (3), Claire Colwill (4), Georgia Wilson (6), Rebecca Greiner (6)
Subs not used: Jocelyn Bartram (GK), Karri Somerville.
Umpires: Amber Church (New Zealand) and Wanri Venter (South Africa)