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Kaitlin Nobbs celebrates Australia’s opening goal with her teammates.
At University of Birmingham: Australia 1 (Kaitlin Nobbs) Black Sticks 0. Q1: 1–0 Q2: 1–0, Q3: 1–0
Defending Commonwealth Games champions the Black Sticks have suffered yet another defeat to Australia.
The gold medal winners from the Gold Coast 2018 have now not beaten the Aussies in 15 attempts since September 2019, after going down 1–0 in their Pool B clash at the University of Birmingham on Tuesday night (NZ time).
All is not lost though, thanks to a 16–0 thrashing of Kenya and a 1-0 victory over Scotland, the Black Sticks only need a victory over the winless South Africa – in their final pool match – to guarantee a spot in the semi-finals against one of the Pool A heavyweights India or England.
The unbeaten Australia’s victory over the Black Sticks cements them top spot in Pool B.
But the Kiwis’ attack will need to improve drastically on what they showed against Australia.
It’s understandable both teams didn’t want to show their full hand early in the tournament but the most significant game in Pool B was hardly a spectacle for the ages.
The tight nature of the scoreline was an unfair reflection of the gap between the two teams. Australia always seemed the better side but never really left cruise control in a game that finished with a 50-50 possession split.
Australian captain Kaitlin Nobbs opened the scoring midway through the first quarter when the Black Sticks gave away a stroke when defending a penalty corner.
Black Sticks goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon’s lightning-quick reflexes saw her get contact on the strike, but she was unable to stop it.
Soon after, Alex Lukin left the turf after taking a nasty blow to the neck region when the ball bounced off her upper arm, but she was able to return in the third quarter.
Australia had four shots on goal to New Zealand’s two in the opening quarter as the Black Sticks struggled to penetrate through the midfield – a theme that would continue throughout the match.
Black Sticks co-captain Olivia Merry had the best opportunity in the second quarter but a shocker of a bounce saw the ball sail over her stick for an air swing.
New Zealand’s attack may have been a little sloppy and at times bland but the Black Sticks defense was full of enthusiasm, repealing numerous Australian attacks.
But at half-time, it was Australia who was in control.
A scoreless third quarter – that lacked fluency from both sides – only came about after Australia’s Shanea Tonkin hit the post after some spectacular lead-up work.
The Black Sticks defense again held strong in the final quarter but they never seriously threatened Australia’s goal.
Even yellow and green cards for Australia in the final quarter couldn’t get New Zealand into a genuine scoring position.
Katie Doar did get a late chance at an equalizer with two minutes remaining, but Australia’s defense stood strong.