The Australian men's 65s were convincing champions in TT 2017 with a well-crafted victory over New Zealand, 3-1, today. Goalscorers were David Peebles, Rick McConnell and Bruce Snape.
The change in structure brought immediate results from the opening whistle with Rod Dyson making significant inroads from the right half position. We attacked from the start and were rewarded when David Peebles scored a field goal after good lead-upwork from Dyson and Clucas, in the fifth minute of the first quarter.
Our relentless attack produced a penalty stroke in the twelfth minute. The Kiwi goalkeeper, Mike Pettit (who has been in outstanding form all week) produced a fine save to keep the 1-0 scoreline.
Some positional changes in the second quarter saw Rick McConnell, on the right wing, combining well with John Chapman, now at right half. Rick made several penetrating runs down the side line and was able to get behind the NZ defence. He created several goal-scoring opportunities during the quarter, but none were successful. However, Rick's persistence paid off when he scored our second goal late in the quarter.
We dominated the third quarter, with Snape, Inkster, Cranston and Clucas combining well to thwart the Kiwi attack, which consisted of playing four high strikers with the hope of finding them with the long ball hit. Our defence held, although we conceded a couple of penalty corners though mis- traps. Bruce Snape appeared to have put the match safely in our grasp when he converted a penalty corner close to three quarter time. However, a mis-directed clearance from a 15 metre restart shortly after the goal, led to a quick riposte from the Kiwis who earned a penalty corner. The shot at goal was saved by Peter Neagle who kicked the ball, head high, only to see a kiwi player play it over his head into the net. The umpire's whistle had sounded just prior to the Kiwi player's stroke and the umpire decided to award a goal. That's a discussion for another day in relation to the intent of the rule relating to playing the ball above the shoulder! Neagle made several superb saves during the third quarter. In contrast, David Spiden, who played the first half of the match, was not called upon to touch the ball!
We played strongly during the final quarter and were comfortable in attack throughout that period. Dale Thompson again had a solid match on the right wing, controlling the ball well and throwing some excellent passes.
The team was worthy winners of this Challenge Test Series Several players were required to play full matches. Lovell was impenetrable at centre back, again. Peebles was a workhorse at left mid-field in each game. Jervis was, yet again, at the international level, virtually impassable at left half. Also, Keith was the first runner on most defensive penalty corners. He played at a very high standard. Clucas, Snape and Inkster also put in magnificent efforts today. They were very strong in attack and defence.
Chapman had his best game of the series today - trapped well and distributed very well. Ray Northwood never stops running up front and caused several turnovers by our opposition with his strong marking game. Noel French had a great series. He was the most dangerous forward of the two teams and created numerous circle penetrations and goal scoring opportunities in each match. Noel earned many penalty corners for us. Incredibly, Noel did not score a goal this week!
Phil Younger demonstrated great versatility, excellent trapping and solid control in the various positions that he played - Striker, Inside forward and defender. He rarely delivers a bad pass and has excellent vision when he has the ball.
Smacka Cranston was also excellent at centre half today and had full control of the centre field area. The Kiwis have not yet found a way to contain him.
Overall, a great team performance and a thoroughly well-deserved Gold Medal. I extend my thanks and congratulations to our fabulous team manager, Bob Thompson (who is the best in the business).
Finally, I extend the very grateful thanks of the entire team to Miss Marie Sarandoglou, our medical team member, for her very professional attention to our players.
We have all played in matches where one team dominates possession, field position and makes numerous circle penetrations, bur fails to score goals and where the opposition defends for all their worth and, more often than not, produces a goal against the run of play. Today our opposition started confidently and converted a penalty corner in the first few minutes. They then decided to defend the lead as our players started to get on top.
The penalty corner count was 10-1 in our favour and our conversion rate was 1 out of ten - and that one conversion was a Bruce Snape special with 90 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. The collective sigh of relief from the bench was audible throughout the hockey centre!
Our dominance was evident by the fact that NZ only made three circle penetrations during the second, third and fourth quarters and the final one in the fourth quarter looked for a few seconds that it was curtains for us. A mis-trap on the 23 line gave their high striker an opportunity to put the game out of our reach and after he eliminated two of our players, including the goalkeeper, he looked certain to score. But, Lo! A light in yonder goal was illuminated in the shape of Denis Lovell who made a superb save on the goal line and cleared the ball safely. That save was reminiscent of Rod Dyson's World Cup winning save in Newcastle just on a year ago.
Our players had numerous shots at goal and, as in Game one, NZ's keeper, Mike Pettit was impassable.
We were a little flat and, at times, our structure became disjointed. Dale Thompson put in a solid performance on the right wing, never missed a trap and held the ball strongly. No one had a bad game - it was disappointing to see all that the hard graft go unrewarded.
My player of the match was Denis Lovell for a very sound overall performance.
So, tomorrow's third test match is very much alive. It may be that "our best is yet to come".
A double from Russell Clucas sealed a sound win in the first test match of the 2017 Trans Tasman Challenge. Although we dominated play, possession and territory for much of the match, we found scoring goals a little difficult today. The Kiwis Goalkeeper, Mike Pettit, had a superb game and was called on the make many saves.
Dale Thompson lead the team on to the field for today's match in a fitting tribute to his long and outstanding service to Masters Hockey at the international level.
We had a glut of possession during the first half, mainly through the efforts of David Peebles and Noel French. They proved to skilful for the Kiwi's defence, made many circle penetrations and forced several penalty corners. Direct hits were saved by the goalkeeper who went "down" on each one. However, he did not expect Rusty Clucas's great flick on the fifth corner which sailed high into the net.
We became a little unsettled in the second quarter and at times lacked composure in clearing the ball from our defensive area. Several turnovers of possession at critical moments gave the opposition a chance to penetrate our scoring circle. We held firm until further turnovers in the last 25 seconds of the first half gave the kiwis a penalty corner which they converted after the siren.
The opposition changed their game plan in the second half, playing two and then three high forwards and sought to pick them out with the long-ball game. Our defence was equal to the task with Lovell, Dyson, Jervis, McConnell, Inkster and Snape holding the fort.
We continued to attack the other rend with Cranston, Peebles, French, Clucas and Northwood making constant inroads. Ray Northwood's persistence gave Russell Clucas a great pass from the left and Rusty was able to score a clever goal. Denis Cranston and Bruce Snape were very strong in attack during the fourth quarter, and Denis, in particular, caught the defence napping with many quickly taken free hits. We were unable to convert the three penalty corners that were won during the second half.
We almost gave the game away with a couple of unfortunate turnovers of possession in the last minute.
I felt that we were the better team on the day and look for a more clinical performance in the second test match on Thursday.
Every player put in a superb effort, even though there were mis-traps, some poor passes and too many turnovers.
On balance, Peebles gets my vote for player of the match for his overall performance.