We completed our European Odyssey with a stirring victory over the Netherlands 2-1. The match was of high quality and was played at a fast pace - which we planned would not be to the Dutch liking. We took the lead early when Geoff Lewis finished off a great team movement down the right. Play see-sawed from end to end and the defence of both sides was outstanding.
John Campbell and Rudy Keswick came in for special marking attention and John, in particular, was "bumped" often to prevent him from getting the ball. Unfortunately , the umpires were somewhat over-generous in their assessment of those incidents.
A single error in the second half gave the Dutch a penalty corner which they converted after a couple of of neat passes.
We continued to attack and a magical piece of play between Rudy Keswick and Peter Shepherd gave Shep the opportunity to score the winning goal with 10 minutes left. We attacked continuously for those last ten minutes and had several near misses. Our players had run themselves ragged and were elated when the final whistle sounded. World Champions, and revenge for our loss to them in the previous World Cup final.
The Dutch players shared a bottle of champagne with us after the match a fine gesture.
Every player in our squad played in the match and all contributed significantly to the result. It is difficult to name any particular players because of the overall team performance, but Shepherd, Keswick, Snape, and Banks all had "special" games.
Our team celebrated wildly on the podium at the medal presentation ceremony.
John Campbell won our players' award for the best player of the tournament.
Today, under a brilliantly sunny sky, we beat England 3-2 to win both a place in Friday's World cup final and the Hockey Ashes from them. Skipper, Bruce Snape played a most magnificent match and was voted best on field by both teams. His fierce determination overpowered the opposition in the centre of the pitch and provided the spring board for our attack. We were first to score when Peter Morgan made a great intercept, ran 20 metres to the circle, drew the goalie and passed to David Peebles who converted strongly.
The match was very tight and England's full press had us under pressure on many occasions but Schasser, Banks, Byrne and Shepherd were equal to the task. Keswick and Campbell were being very closed marked by the Poms and goal scoring opportunities were hard to find. 1-0 at half time.
We started the second half as strongly as we had the first and were soon to be 2-0 up when Geoff Lewis made a great angular run from left wing and scored with a well placed shot.
England were still relentless in the effort to score and after we were unable to clear the ball cleanly, they gained possession and attacked down the right. A circle penetration from the right, followed by a pass to the top of the circle allowed a good shot at goal which was stopped by us but given back to another English player who tapped in to make the score 2-1 with 15 minutes to play.
Peter Byrne was injured defending a penalty corner and was replaced by Denis Lovell.
We won a couple of penalty corners and Peter Shepherd "damaged" the England goalie with a very powerful hit. The goalie needed attention and may have been wondering where Shep was going to hit the second one. As it turned out the goalie was quite safe as Shep's drive was so hard and fast that it hit the back board before he had times to react. 3-1 with 10 to go and the intensity of the game was very high. Another lapse in marking and following of the structure saw England score again on the left post after some crisp lead-up work. 3-2 and the nerves were firing across the field for the last frenetic 8 minutes.
Denis Lovell is such a calm, composed and thinking player that you can always rely on him in a crisis and today he demonstrated just this characteristics. He had to mark the Pom's best forward and did that well, but his major contribution was a superb stopping tackle on Tim Smith, the Big centre forward, who needed treatment and had to leave the field for a few minutes - so did Denis because of the yellow card.
We held on for a well-deserved 3-2 win.
The match was watched by a large crowd which included a trio from Illawarra - David Johnson and Keith (Ocka) and Chris Eastham.
Postscript - The hockey Ashes are the remains of an English player's hockey stick. He was a long term member of England's LX Hockey Club and cremated his stick about 10 years ago. These particular Ashes have been played for on six previous occasions between the England and Australian 60s teams and with our win today, the score is England 5 Australia 2. we look forward to defending them in 2016.
It is never a good thing to start a game with an air of complacency, but this is what we did against Japan in our first knock out match. A slow start, some inconsistent marking and Japan sent a ball right through our mid-field to the centre forward who made a perfect angled run and then won a penalty corner against some tackles made of fairy floss. Japan converted the corner and triumphantly ran back to the half way line as our wake up call was ringing in our ears.
Our players turned up the tempo and it was not too long before John Campbell levelled the score with a superb tomahawk. We had the majority of the possession and made many circle penetrations and were either thwarted by the plucky defenders or by missing the net. We made the most of our chances and scored five more with David Peebles, Peter Shepherd, John Campbell and the coach(2) finding the back of the net. It was a good team performance and was good preparation for our semi-final against England tomorrow. That match will be our sixth in seven days and the heavy programme is taking its toll on players. John Chapman was rested today to give his hamstring injury a chance to heal. Everyone played well today, although Peter Shepherd was slightly the best on ground.
In the second semi-final The Netherlands play Germany.
We have completed the round robin part of the tournament with four wins from our four matches after dominating our Antipodean neighbours today in warm and humid weather conditions. The knockout part of the World cup starts tomorrow with quarter finals. We are waiting for the results from late matches in the other two pools to find out the name of our opponents tomorrow.
Rudy Keswick opened the scoring in the second minute of the match with another brilliant superb solo goal in which he beat 5 Kiwi defenders before wrong-footing the goalkeeper to finish the movement. NZ was playing a full press against us and we struggled at times to effectively clear the ball from our 23m area. A turnover near the half-way line in the 10th minute gave the Kiwis the opportunity to set up a typical play and the angled drive from 30m out gave the centre forward a clear chance to turn the ball into the net behind our defence - it was a goal that we have seen so often from them.
We stuck to our strategy of moving the ball quickly aground the field and giving our strikers good chances to take on the defence. John Campbell put us in front before half time with a clever goal after good lead-up work from Snape and Peebles.
We were very dominant in the second half with the Kiwis wilting under our pressure. The man-on-man marking was very effective and our players were running down every ball and giving the Kiwis very little time to do something creative. Bob Banks, Peter Shepherd, Peter Byrne, Denis Lovell and Allen Schasser were very strong in defence .
French, Campbell, Keswick, Peebles and Lewis made life difficult for our opponents and were very well served by great mid-filed games from Bruce Snape and Denis Cranston, who was celebrating his 100th Masters International Match.
Despite a small fracture in his right hand, Rick McConnell had some game time at right half and also on the right wing from where he scored a fine goal after a very fast scythe-like run by John Campbell. Campbell completed the scoring with a fast angled run that had the Kiwis grasping at thin air.
New Zealand did not give up and made some circle penetrations in the final ten minutes and won three penalty corners. Peter Neagle was in fine form to make four good saves.
The Italians were no match for our team today and we were comfortable in scoring 8 goals and not conceding any. The weather conditions were perfect for hockey with blue skies and warm sunshine.
Geoff Lewis scored 4 while John Campbell once again scored twice. Dennis Cranston and Peter Sweeney completed the scoring. Lewis had a strong game on the left wing and was "on the spot" to tuck away any opportunity that came his way.
We played a match with good structure and movement for about three- quarters and lost our way a little for a while.
Banks, Schasser, Byrne, Shepherd, Keswick, Snape, Chapman and Cranston were all in good touch.
Denis Lovell had a good match at left back and appears to have overcome his calf injury.
Unfortunately, Rick McConnell has a small fracture in his right hand after being struck in the match against Belgium. An Xray after today's match confirmed the break, which is not serious. Rick played in today's match and is expected to continue playing in the tournament. Noel French missed today's game after being confined to his room with a flu-like virus.
On Monday we play our next match against New Zealand who drew 5-5 with Malaysia today.
Another match full of character and determination (played in warm sunshine in stark contrast to the cold and wet conditions of yesterday) saw our team come from behind for the second time in as many matches to beat a resourceful Belgium side 4-2. John Campbell again was the standout player and the Belgium defence had to resort to very heavy tackling to prevent him from scoring.John scored a superb individual goal in the fifth minute to put us ahead. The nine man Belgium defence was difficult to penetrate and their strategy was to counter-attack throughout he centre when they forced us to turn over the ball. They did this successfully mid-way through the first half and scored with our defence in disarray. Half-time 1-1.
We were again caught napping when the Belgium centre half broke through our midfield and after beating three defenders made a pass to an unmarked player who scored. 1-2 with 17 minutes to play. Our players worked very hard to break through and were very unlucky to be not awarded penalty strokes on two occasions in the last ten minutes when John Cambell was brought down crudely when shooting at goal - penalty corner and no card and then having his stick hacked out from behind when again shooting at goal. David Peebles levelled the score after some magical work by Rudy Keswick and Campbell then put us in front after some clever lead up work. Noel French finished the scoring from a penalty corner after Rudy Keswick found a way around two defenders.
It was a creditable performance fro many aspects - persistence, patience and hard grinding work. Bob Banks ran his legs off marking their speedy centre forward, Byrne was again dynamic at left defender, Peebles was always a threat and Campbell was inspirational. Keswick was unstoppable during the final twelve minutes of the match. Another excellent statistic was the fact that we did not concede any penalty corners during the match.
The match was somewhat marred by the poor standard of umpiring. The two European umpires gave us a hard time and with two yellow cards and three green cards, we played for 26 minutes with only ten players. Despite the umpiring errors, our players need to be more circumspect in their actions at all times.
Of concern is the injury toll with Morgan (calf), Lovell (calf), Lewis (foot), McConnell (hand) and some slight strains to a couple of players. We hope that the rest day tomorrow will help them recover.
Our team displayed great character and composure to come from 0-2 down early in the second half to score a great 3-2 win. We were slow to start and allowed the Malaysians some soft penetrations into our 23m area. We gave away a penalty corner which resulted in a penalty stroke. 0-1.
A lapse in focus then allowed the Malaysian centre half to stroll through a disorganised defence and score a great field goal. 0-2 at half time.
We were gradually playing a better team game and forced a penalty corner which then provided a penalty stroke. John Campbell converted it and then finished off a well structured team goal where the ball was rapidly passed from Sweeney at inside right to centre half Dennis Cranston, then to David Peebles on the left wing. Peebles passed across the face of goal with power and precision and Campbell finished the movement with a top class deflection.
At long last our structure was working as planned and we made many incursions into the packed Malaysian defence. David Peebles was always dangerous and was again involved in our winning goal that was scored by John Chapman.
Our defence was able to contain the skilful Malaysian forwards during the second half.
There were several very good performances from our team - Shepherd, Schasser, Campbell, Peebles, Byrne and Chapman in particular. The coach was always confident that we would prevail if we were determined, composed and patient with the appropriate application of our game plan and structure.
In other matches in our competition, Belgium beat Italy 3-0 while Spain and The Netherlands drew 1-1.
Tomorrow we play Belgium at 12.30.
Our 65s beat south Africa 5-1 and our 70s had a tough 1-1 draw with England.
The four Australian Grand Masters teams gathered at the Van Der Valk Hotel Nootdorp for our Tour dinner. The ladies were elegantly dressed while the rest of the group were quite resplendent in our official uniforms.
We were honoured to have as our guests, Mr Wim Van Noortwijk and Mr Henk Rouwendal, respectively the Chairman and vice-chairman of the host organising committee. John Watts, National Teams coordinator, thanked Wim and Henk for their efforts in the organisation of both the world cup and practice matches for our teams. Bob Rowley and John McBryde, both made presentations of gifts to Henk while Bob Thompson mad e presentation to Wim.
The AMHC National Coordinator officially thanked the team managers, coaches, medical staff and umpires and also John Watts and Ric Roberts for their extraordinary efforts in making the tour "happen". The meal was magnificent and a really enjoyable time was had by all. The night concluded with team photographs being taken.
Yet another fascinating day on our tour with a trip to Lille to play France at the Iris Hockey Club, followed by a visit to Ypres, the Commonwealth War Graves at Tyne Cot in Flanders and then finishing the day at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menen Gate in Ypres ( a very moving experience).
We were once more very impressed with the high standard of hockey facilities that the clubs have in Europe. Also, the warmth of the welcome and the generous hospitality extended to our group was greatly appreciated.
We were too strong for the French team and some impressive goals were scored by John Campbell, John Chapman, Geoff Lewis, Rudy Keswick and Noel French. We conceded two goals, both from well-executed penalty corners (those conversions have given us a few things to correct before the World Cup starts).
After our match we were able to watch the major semi-final of the French Women's National League which featured the home club's team. It was fast-paced, tight game and the home side won 2-1.
Every day of our trip has been filled with interesting adventures, magnificent historical buildings and monuments, picturesque countryside and exhilarating camaraderie
A superbly sunny day set the mood for an another brilliant day of international hockey. After a second hard training session in the morning we travelled through picturesque Belgium countryside to Hoegaarden. With a couple of forays up leafy lanes, and the discovery of a quaint stone village we eventually found the road to the Hoegaarden grounds.
The subsequent game against our Belgium rivals, and despite some very typical European defence, saw us embark on a successful day, winning 5-1. John Campbell was in great touch with a hat-trick of goals in the second half. First half goals were scored by Rudy Keswick and John Chapman. Overall it was a good team effort, and Rudi's goal was a real gem which saw him beat several players.
The hospitality and friendship of the club members and the 60's Belgium team was outstanding and we hope that our visit will assist the growth of Masters hockey in this fine country.
Tomorrow, Sunday, we travel to Lille in France to play a test match against France. It is noted that on this tour we will have played Spain, Belgium and France for the very first time in the 60s age group, a most exciting precedent.