Kookaburras laughing now
AUSTRALIA added to their incredible unbeaten record with a hard-fought win over the battling Spanish to claim the Champions Trophy at the North Harbour Hockey Stadium yesterday.
In gloomy conditions they stretched their winning trophy run to 14 matches. They were last beaten in 2009, by Germany.
While the game lacked the goal-scoring excitement of the bronze match, it was a clinical display by the Kookaburras who gained an important psychological advantage in the last tournament before next year's Olympics.
From the outset the final was an end-to-end affair with half-chances for both teams but with the defences equal to anything thrown at them.
Played in cool, windy and gloomy conditions which required floodlights, the initiative swung back and forth but without either team creating a clear scoring chance. Or a penalty corner.
Influential playmakers, Australian Jamie Dwyer - who on Saturday had been named the FIH Men's Player of the Year for the fifth time - and Spanish captain Santi Freixa, a tournament standout, worked tirelessly in their efforts to rally their players for that one game-breaking effort.
Freixa was later named player of the tournament while Dwyer was the top goalscorer. Black Sticks goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex took the goalkeeping award.
The game-breaker fell the Australians' way when ironically Dwyer and Freixa were off the field as the Kookaburras won the only penalty corner of the match in the 58th minute.
The initial shot and the attempt from the rebound were blocked but the ball found its way back to drag-flicker Luke Doerner who lifted it across to Eddie Ockenden at the far post from where he pushed home.
The Spaniards called for a review - insisting the ball to Ockenden was dangerous.
While they had grounds for such an appeal, their plea fell on deaf ears and the goal was confirmed.
Determined to battle to the end, the Spaniards picked up the pace and created one last and for Australia a heart-stopping chance which goalkeeper Andrew Charter moved quickly to snuff out before turning to join his teammates in celebrating.
The battle for fifth - a keenly awaited contest between last year's silver medallists Great Britain and Olympic champions Germany - was decided by a solitary goal.
Thilo Stralkowski's penalty corner conversion five minutes before halftime was enough to allow the Germans to claim the all-important fifth place and guaranteed [last automatic] entry into next year's Champions Trophy in Australia.
For the British, looking for a solid result ahead of next year's Olympic Games, it was another disappointing result in a tournament in which they had been hammered 4-1 by Australia and 8-1 by Spain in pool play.
In the first round of post-pool matches they were beaten 2-1 by Germany.
The wooden spoon went to the sixth-ranked Koreans who were beaten in golden goal extra time by ninth-ranked Pakistan.
Korea led 1-0 and 2-1 before falling 2-4 behind. Late goals from Hyo Sik You tied it up 4-4 at fulltime.
A field goal from Muhammad Rizwan was a winner for Pakistan.