Aussies set up hockey quarter-final against NZ

Published 14 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Emily Smith of Australia celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Women's Pool B hockey match between Australia and Japan on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Hockey Centre on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

HOCKEY: Mariah Williams saved her first Olympic goal for the moment her family could witness it, after they flew in from New South Wales just in time to see the 21-year-old score the first of Australia’s two goals against Japan. 

It was a confident performance from Australia’s women’s hockey team, for whom Emily Smith netted their second late in proceedings to seal the result and third place in Pool B.

Looming large for Australia now is a knock-out quarter final clash with rivals and near neighbours New Zealand, who secured second place in Pool A courtesy of a 3-0 win over China.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Williams said of scoring her first Olympic goal.

Of her family, Williams said: “I’m sure they’ll be pretty happy as I’m pretty happy. They couldn’t get here any earlier but they’re here now and hopefully they’re here for the finals.”

It was also a proud night for the Peris family as Brooke Peris made her 100th appearance in the iconic Australian bodysuit.

“It was very special,” Peris said.

“You never think that could happen. I’m very privileged to walk out with the group of girls that I have.

“My parents and my aunty and my partner were in the stands all watching me. It was probably a proud moment for them but I just stayed focused on my game.

“It’s an achievement but all I really wanted to do was play with my teammates and that’s more worth it than anything.”

Early chances at both ends saw Jodie Kenny’s low penalty corner flick tipped away by Japanese goalkeeper Sakiyo Asano, before Australia’s own stopper, Rachael Lynch, came out smartly to dive at the feet of Aki Mitsuhashi.

Williams and Co took advantage of Hazuki Nagai’s green card suspension immediately following quarter time to break the deadlock. 

An intricate passing move around the right of the Japanese circle was finished off by Williams, who slotted her effort low into the far bottom corner after Emily Smith’s pass to the middle of the circle.

The Aussie women enjoyed the best of the chances throughout but Kathryn Slattery’s looping effort dropped over the top and Williams was denied along the baseline by Asano.

Georgie Morgan’s fierce drag flick from one of Australia’s nine penalty corners cannoned off the crossbar before Smith put the result beyond doubt with a well taken touch at the back post to convert Georgie Parker’s pass across the circle.

For one player – Australia’s Edwina Bone – the match will also be remembered as the one in which she brought the wrong uniform. In scenes more akin to weekend grade hockey than the sport’s pinnacle, Bone was forced to wear the numberless spare ‘blood suit’.

After two unsuccessful attempts to have her unlucky number 13 taped onto her back, team officials eventually resorted to marker pen to distinguish her for the umpires.

Australian Head Coach Adam Commens was pleased with the overall performance as his side looks ahead to a tough match against world number four side, New Zealand.

“I thought the performance tonight was comprehensive,” said Commens.

“We controlled the game, we created a lot of chances. I would have liked to have scored a few more. We weren’t pushing the ball out straight on our penalty corners, which made it difficult for our drag flickers but we got the result and that’s what we needed to do.

“New Zealand’s a team that would have been expecting to be in the medal rounds, as we would have.

“It’s going to be a tough match and one of the medal favourites will be going out in the quarter finals.

“We know New Zealand very well. We know how we need to play to get the result and we’re confident if we execute our game plan that’s what we will be able to do.”

Australia, ranked third in the world, and New Zealand, ranked fourth, will meet in the quarter final at on Monday

Quarter final draw in full:
Monday 15 August

10:00am New Zealand v Australia (11:00pm AEST)
12:30pm USA v Germany (1:30am AEST, Tuesday)
6:00pm Great Britain v Spain (7:00am AEST, Tuesday)
8:30pm Netherlands v Argentina (9:30am AEST, Tuesday)

Lawrence West

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