The Kookaburras will compete for a seventh straight Commonwealth Games gold medal after surviving a huge scare against England, coming from two goals down to win 3-2.
Urged on by a raucous home crowd, England struck twice in the opening 20 minutes to stun the Kookaburras who had only conceded two goals in four games leading into the semi final.
However, this Kookaburra’s team is ranked number one in the world for a reason and despite being far from their best, they showed enormous grit to equalise, find a winner and then hold off a late England surge.
“It was a huge test and a huge challenge. England started the game really well and we were certainly on the back foot,” said Kookaburra Head Coach Colin Batch.
“They got a lot of confidence from that, so it was a huge challenge for us to get up to our level and it took us a long time to get there.”
“We were doing uncharacteristic things, we weren’t as calm and it took a long time to settle into the game.”
“There was a lot of emotion in the game. It was an exceptional semi final and we are very pleased to win it and give ourselves a chance of winning the gold medal.”
In a typically frenetic opening to a semi final, England had three penalty corners in the opening minutes, the Kookaburras’ defensive unit holding firm with goalkeeper Andrew Charter making a sharp save from the third one.
The Kookaburras’ first penalty corner saw Blake Govers’ low drag flick kept out by England keeper Oliver Payne.
Sharp work saw Tim Brand force another sharp save from Payne as the Kookaburras attacked the circle with purpose.
England were smothering the Kookaburras in midfield, forcing the usually composed Australians into errors and the hosts went ahead when Phil Roper sent his shot through Charter’s legs.
Playing inspired hockey, in the 19th minute England were awarded a penalty stroke which captain Zac Wallace dispatched to make it 2-0.
Brand was again denied but three minutes from half time a Gover’s drag flick cut the margin to one.
The Kookaburras’ cause was aided early in the second half when England’s William Calnan was shown a yellow card to give the Australians an extra player advantage for 10 minutes.
Aran Zalewski flashed a tomahawk over the crossbar but the Kookaburras continued to find it difficult to create clearcut chances and circle entries.
The complexion of the match changed when a successful video referral by the Kookaburras after England were awarded a penalty corner paid handsome dividends as they equalized on the next play.
Josh Beltz won a crucial contested ball in the middle of the pitch to release Flynn Ogilvie who sent the ball on to Jacob Anderson and he hammered a tomahawk into the backboard on the angle to make it 2-2.
With 10 minutes to go the Kookaburras were in front. Anderson won a free hit on the left and played on quickly into the circle. With the England defense out of position he found Nathan Ephraums and Daniel Beale positioned in front of the keeper, the latter knocking the ball into the net.
Lightning reflexes from Ogilvie was all that stood between England equalizing from a penalty corner when the midfielder swatted away a goal bound drag flick.
England took their keeper off with two and a half minutes remaining and a late surge saw them win three penalty corners.
But the Kookaburras managed to book their place in Monday’s goal medal match where they will take on India, who defeated South Africa 3-2 in the other semi final.
“We were fighting tooth and nail…we didn’t play our best but you can win ugly as well and that’s a good sign for us,” said Govers.
“They played their best hockey early on. We didn’t respond how we wanted to but you just have to work into it.”
“We knew we had momentum going our way and needed to score the next goal and that’s what we did.”
The gold medal match will be played at 9.30pm AEST on Monday 8 August.
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Commonwealth Games Australia website
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games website
Kookaburras 3 (Govers 27′, Anderson 44′, Beale 50′)
England 2 (Roper 12′, Wallace 19′)
@ University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre
Kookaburras: 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Tom Wickham, 6.Matt Dawson, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 9.Jacob Anderson, 10.Josh Beltz, 11.Eddie Ockenden (c), 12.Jake Whetton, 13.Blake Govers, 15. Josh Simmonds, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Daniel Beale, 29.Tim Brand, 30.Andrew Charter (gk), 32.Jeremy Hayward
Unused substitute: 8. Johan Durst (gk)