Kaitlin Nobbs’ fifth goal of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games was enough to send the Hockeyroos to the top of Pool B as they defeated New Zealand 1-0.
The result means a win or draw against Scotland in their final pool match will secure the Hockeyroos top spot, which would see them meet the second placed team from Pool A in the semi finals.
In Grace Stewart’s 100th Hockeyroos international, the Australians dominated large periods of the contest, having 31 circle penetrations to 14, but were made to settle for the slender victory.
Despite failing to convert a host of chances, if the Hockeyroos defence continues to shut teams out and record clean sheets one goal is enough.
Having developed a history of hard fought tight tussles, this game was no different between the Trans-Tasman rivals.
Stewart and Mariah Williams almost gave the Hockeyroos the dream start inside 30 seconds when they combined to create an opening, with Williams’ eventual shot flashing just wide.
The defining moment of the match came in the 8th minute after great persistence from Greta Hayes earnt the Hockeyroos their first penalty corner.
Renee Taylor’s drag flick struck a New Zealand player guarding the goal line on the foot and the umpire had not hesitation awarding the Hockeyroos a penalty stroke.
Nobbs stepped up to coolly slot her stroke into the back of the net for the ninth goal of her career.
The Hockeyroos were forced to absorb some sustained New Zealand pressure in the second quarter, Taylor and then Claire Colwill with crucial tackles to foil dangerous Black Sticks forays.
Two penalty corners in quick succession in the third quarter could not extend the Hockeyroos’ advantage.
Shanea Tonkin then went inches away from making it 2-0 as her jink over the advancing goalkeeper from an acute angle came off the post.
The Hockeyroos were forced to grit their teeth defensively again early in the last quarter after Jane Claxton received a yellow card.
However, it was the Hockeyroos who came closest to breaking through again when Rebecca Greiner was away on the counter attack, only for goalkeeper Brooke Roberts to the rescue the Black Sticks.
As the clock ticked down, the Hockeyroos remained measured and in control to register their third straight win of the tournament.
“We have played them (New Zealand) plenty of times over the past few years and every time is hard, very physical and we’re both just going at each other the whole game, so it was great to get the win,” said Stewart.
“We find we have a lot of possession but we’re trying to win more penalty corners, more field goals…that’s definitely the aim.
“It’s just that final finishing touch we need to try and nail in the later games.”
The Hockeyroos’ final pool match is against South Africa on Wednesday 3 August at 6.00pm AEST.
Catch all the hockey from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on Seven and 7plus.
Commonwealth Games Australia website
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games website
New Zealand 0
Hockeyroos 1 (Nobbs 8’)
@ University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre
Hockeyroos: 1.Claire Colwill, 2.Rosie Malone, 4.Amy Lawton, 6.Penny Squibb, 7.Aleisha Power (gk), 8.Georgia Wilson, 9.Shanea Tonkin, 10.Maddy Fitzpatrick, 12.Greta Hayes, 14.Steph Kershaw, 15.Kaitlin Nobbs, 18.Jane Claxton (c), 19.Jocelyn Bartram (gk), 20.Karri Somerville, 21.Renee Taylor, 24.Mariah Williams, 29.Rebecca Greiner, 30.Grace Stewart