The Hockeyroos have the job in front of them after suffering a 3-1 loss to New Zealand in match one of the Oceania Cup.
Despite the Hockeyroos having more than their share of control during the tense contest, the Black Sticks Women made the most of their opportunities to leave Australia’s women’s team needing to win the next two matches to automatically qualify for Tokyo 2020.
The Hockeyroos were not without their chances and could have gone ahead when they were awarded a penalty stroke in the 17th minute. However, experienced campaigner Jodie Kenny had her attempt well saved by Queensland born New Zealand keeper Grace O’Hanlon.
The miss would prove to be costly as some sustained New Zealand pressure took its toll and they broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when Megan Hull managed to beat Hockeyroos goalkeeper Rachael Lynch with her low drive from a penalty corner.
The Black Sticks Women somehow managed to keep the ball out from a goal line scramble, their ability to hold out frustrating the Hockeyroos and tellingly invigorating the away side.
Then as the Hockeyroos started to force the issue in the third quarter, they were hit by a double sucker punch as New Zealand struck twice in the blink of an eye.
Amy Robinson had the final touch on a well worked penalty corner before Black Sticks Women captain Stacey Michelsen went on a blistering run from the midfield and unleash a venomous back stick shot to stun the home crowd.
Needing quick goals, the Hockeyroos had three successive penalty corners and it was third time lucky as co-captain Georgina Morgan fired in a shot and 17 year old Amy Lawton got the deftest of touches to make it 3-1 with six minutes remaining.
But that was as close as the Hockeyroos would come as they now look towards a cut throat match on Saturday that they must win to send the series to a decider.
Head Coach Paul Gaudoin did not hide his disappointment but was quick to reiterate to his charges that they have a chance to redeem themselves and put themselves right back in the hunt.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked. It probably took us until the second half to get going and free ourselves up to play our game, so we’re going to have to learn from that pretty quickly and turn it around on Saturday,” said Gaudoin.
“If we score that stroke at the start things can change but we know that we didn’t play our best and that’s a good thing going into the next game.
“Our flow and our sharpness wasn’t there. We were a bit static and at this level, we know the Kiwis are a very good team so that makes it difficult.”
“I think at the end we started to put them on the back foot and we created some chances, but again we didn’t take a lot of them tonight and that has to improve.”
“One of the things I said to the girls after the game was that it used to be a one off final so being best-of-three gives us an opportunity to get back into it on Saturday.”
(Image courtesy of Getty Images)
Hockeyroos 1 (Lawton 54’)
New Zealand 3 (Hull 20’, Robinson 42’, Michelsen 43’)
Kalka Shades Hockey Fields, Rockhampton