WA, QLD, NSW and SA will play in the semi finals of the Australian Hockey League at the Hockey Centre in Canberra on Saturday, following the completion of Round 7.
With the final points table standings not known until the conclusion of the last match of the day between the Canberra Labor Club Strikers and the SmokeFree WA Diamonds, the top five teams in contention watched in anticipation for the result of the game which would determine their final place and opposition in Saturday’s upcoming matches.
In the end, it was an easy victory for the Diamonds as they defeated the Strikers 7-1 to retain their position at the top of the points table. The results also allowed the Adelaide Suns into the semi finals for the first time since 2002, with Queensland and New South Wales finishing in second and third spots respectively. It will be only the second time in 10 years that the ACT side has not featured in the semi finals.
In the re-match of last year’s final, the Diamonds started the game the way they meant to go on, scoring a penalty corner goal from a straight strike by Melissa Hall in the fifth minute. The Strikers dug in and achieved three penalty corners in a row, but struggled to execute a strong hit on goal.
Fast paced play saw the ball move back and forward between the teams, however the Diamonds clearly had the edge, with Emily Halliday scoring just before half time. The second half saw an onslaught of goals from the Diamonds, with the key strikers finding space and well constructed passes.
Youngster Jemma Buckley took two goals for the night, and while the ACT defence worked hard and the team managed to salvage a return goal, it was the Diamonds turn to sparkle and lead the way into the semi finals for their title defence.
Meanwhile, the earlier match between the Queensland Scorchers and the Adelaide Suns was also a fast-paced contest, with the Suns playing for a guaranteed fourth place if they won. However it was not to be that easy, and despite a fairly even contest for the first half of the game, the Scorchers put out the Suns fire with a 5-1 win.
Scorcher Nikki Hudson, newly returned from the European club season, was first to score, followed by Wendy Alcorn to take the match to 2-0 at half time. Donna Lee-Patrick of the Suns shortened the lead five minutes into the second half with a superb reverse stick shot into the top of the goal from the backline.
However, a major defensive lapse handed the ball to Queensland striker Amy Korner, who promptly beat goalkeeper De-Anne Gilbert to score, and then followed up with two more goals as the match opened up for the Scorchers. The Suns were avenged however after the Strikers loss put them into the semi finals, where they will now meet the Diamonds.
NSW nearly encountered a shock result defeating the Wrest Point Van Demons only in a penalty stroke shoot out after the scores were locked at 1-1 after extra time. The surprise result saw the game remain scoreless for 69 minutes, with two goals scored in the last minute.
Tasmania put on a determined show while the Arrows played some clever hockey, switching tactics in an attempt to get the ball into the net. However all attempts were thwarted until Belinda Brooks finally slotted the ball during yet another Arrows attack.
Tasmania responded by slinging the ball to the other end and capitalised on a lapse of concentration by the Arrows by finding Veronica Scott on the penalty spot who sent the ball flying into the net. Twelve minutes of extra time remained without goals, although a Van Demons shot hit the cross bar, and the match moved to penalty strokes which the experienced Arrows duly won.
Despite gaining points for the result, Tasmania remain in eighth place given that the Pearls have won a game, and will meet the Strikers on Saturday in the classification match.
In the other match of the day, the Azuma Vipers defeated the Territory Pearls 2-0 in a slow-paced match which should have seen much higher scoring. Hockeyroo Ngaire Smith was instrumental in moving the ball up the wings, scoring from the reverse stick on one occasion.
Both teams remain in their previous sixth and seventh spots following the days results, and will now meet each other again on Saturday in the second classification match.
Azuma Vipers 2 defeated Territory Pearls 0
Goals: Vipers - Ngaire Smith FG 18m, Renee Trost FG 41m
Queensland Scorchers 5 defeated Adelaide Suns 1
Goals: Scorchers - Nikki Hudson FG 24m, Wendy Alcorn FG 30m, Amy Korner FG 62m FG 66m FG 69m; Suns - Donna Lee-Patrick FG 40m
NSW Arrows 1 defeated Wrest Point Van Demons 1 (NSW won 5-3 after penalty strokes)
Goals: Arrows - Belinda Brooks FG 70m; Van Demons - Veronica Scott FG 70m
SmokeFree WA Diamonds 7 defeated Canberra Labor Club Strikers 1
Goals: Diamonds - Melissa Hall PC 5m, Emily Halliday PC 32m, Rheannin Kelly PC 43m, Shelly Liddelow FG 45m, Jemma Buckley FG 56m FG 69m, Kia Mansell PC 70m; Strikers - Erin Smyth PC 50m
Van Demons 4
Match Schedule – Saturday
5-8 Classification: Canberra Labor Club Strikers v Wrest Point Van Demons, 8.30am
5-8 Classification: Azuma Vipers v Territory Pearls, 10.30am
Semi Final 1: SmokeFree WA Diamonds v Adelaide Suns 12.30pm
Semi Final 2: Queensland Scorchers v NSW Arrows, 2.30pm
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