A 22nd minute goal by five-time World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer has hoisted the Kookaburras to a 1-0 win over New Zealand at hockey’s Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.
The Australian men took control of Tuesday’s game in Ipoh early on, putting the Black Sticks’ defence under sustained pressure.
The defending champions fought back to earn the first scoring opportunity, a penalty corner attempt, but the Kookaburras held strong and the deft flick was abruptly blocked.
Australia, who are favourites to win the 33rd edition of the tournament, almost had an early goal soon after when forward Tom Craig managed to get the ball into the net but the shot was disallowed.
The Black Sticks then immediately countered with a near goal. However, the exchange of failed shots ended with the veteran Dwyer’s smoothly executed shot in the 22nd minute following lead up work from Ogilvie Flynn and Chris Ciriello.
The Kiwis looked to equal two minutes into the third quarter when striker Hugo Inglis sent the ball wide of the net with Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell out of position.
Into the fourth quarter they did their best to get the game back with four narrow penalty corner misses in as many minutes.
The Kookaburras’ tenacious defence was equal to the task.
After losing the title to the Black Sticks last year on a shootout, they sit pretty on four wins from four games at the seven-nation tournament.
“The first half of the game was reasonably good and we were quite happy,” Kookaburras coach, Graham Reid said.
“Going into the third quarter and we were quite poor, we needed to be more patient. New Zealand created a lot of opportunities.
“The heat definitely affected both teams.
There were mistakes from both sides but playing in 37 degree heat it’s to be expected to a point and we can definitely learn from this.”
Australia next play Japan on Wednesday night.