Hockeyroos dominate Challenge final to return to world's top tier
Final: Australia - USA 6-1 (halftime: 3-1)
Australia reclaimed their place at the top table with a comprehensive victory over USA to claim the big prize, the Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge I title, along with a place back in the Champions Trophy.
Despite an early wobble when Rachel Dawson clipped home a sweet penalty corner, the Hockeyroos had too much power allied to their forward guile to outdo a spirited US challenge. They did ship a third minute penalty corner that the rangy Dawson smacked home via a deflection but once Jade Close had snapped up an equaliser, there was just one side in the ascendancy. It was a very neat piece of work as Casey Eastham controlled a bouncing ball into her general vicinity and the diminutive striker bounced the ball over Jackie Kintzer and in.
Georgia Nanscawen applied a deft finish to complete a counter-attack move, sliding into the bottom right corner in the 24th minute. Close’s delicious reverse-stick effort extended the margin further, a classy finish for a 3-1 half-time lead. Australia came out quickly again in the second half and virtually put the game to bed as Emily Smith smashed down the middle her side’s fourth goal in the 37th minute. From there, the final endured a bit of a lull as USA attempted to gain a foothold in the tie but could not break through.
And the Hockeyroos finished with a flourish, scoring two corners in the closing 11 minutes, with Jodie Schulz on the mark, picking out the bottom left corner while her late push was clipped in by Fiona Boyce to round out the victory. For the US, it was a second successive final defeat in this level of competition, denied the last time by Japan in 2011. Katie O'Donnell did take home the player of the tournament award while Emily Hurtz was awarded the top-scorer prize, edging out Stephanie de Groof by virtue of more goals from play.
Carol Metchette, meanwhile, was honoured in her final international match as an umpire as she retires after 134 international games, two Olympics among many other accolades.
Bronze medal match: Scotland - Ireland 2-2 (halftime: 1-1), Ireland win 4-3 on penalties
Nikki Symmons calmly rolled home Ireland’s final penalty to win the shoot-out against their Celtic rivals Scotland to finally claim the bronze medal from a thrilling tussle in Dublin. The Scots looked well placed for glory until three minutes from the end of normal time before Niamh Atcheler snaffled an equaliser to tie things up at 2-2.
A pulsating period of extra-time ensued with Nikki Kidd going the closest when she rattled the left post as chances came thick and fast. But neither side could force a winner, leading to the penalties. Scotland netted their first three while Ireland missed one to take the advantage but two Emma Gray saves helped Ireland respond and Symmons superbly taken effort won the day.
Early on, Ali Bell completed a beautiful goal when she got on the end of a sharp move, instigated by Vikki Bunce in the fifth minute. Emma Smyth cancelled out that effort before the break through her own force of will, racing through on the left and pushing past the impressive Amy Gibson.
Scotland took back the lead in the second half, again from a good team move, one which originated inside their own 25. Nikki Lloyd laid up for Sam Judge who found the narrowest of gaps at the near post to slam home. And that was how it stayed until Atcheler’s late intervention and their ultimate rush to the bronze medal.
Fifth/Sixth place playoff: South Africa – Belgium 1-2 (halftime: 0-0)
Belgium ended their first Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge campaign in fifth place as they produced a strong second half performance to outdo South Africa. The first half ended scoreless though South Africa held sway for the most part, the best of their chances created by Bernadette Coston down the right baseline but Izelle Lategan could not connect with her cross.
Belgium, however, bossed the second half and took the lead through Erica Coppey, reversing home from close range amid a flurry of chances. Alix Gerniers then smashed home the second from a flowing right-wing move to double the advantage and secure victory with 15 minutes to go.
Seventh/Eighth place playoff:
India – Wales 4-0 (halftime: 3-0)
India took seventh place with a controlled victory over Wales who ended eighth and took the one relegation spot from the Champions Challenge. Poonam Rani got the Indians up and running before Anupa Barla’s sweetly struck effort and another from Ritu Rani extended the margin to three at half-time. Lily Chanu Mayengbam completed the scoring in the 47th minute from the left side of the circle to end her side’s tournament on a high note.Back