Hockeyroos beat their traditional rivals in FIH Pro League

Grace Stewart's brilliance came to the fore on Saturday as the Hockeyroos beat their traditional rivals in a thrilling match.
Grace Stewart's brilliance came to the fore on Saturday as the Hockeyroos beat their traditional rivals in a thrilling match.

Grace Stewart's brilliance came to the fore on Saturday as the Hockeyroos beat their traditional rivals in a thrilling match.

A brilliant tomahawk goal from the Gerringong player (Stewart) at the death earned the Hockeyroos a nail-biting 2-1 victory against Olympic title holders Great Britain in their FIH Pro League match in Sydney on Saturday.

The result also ensured defenders Edwina Bone (200 games), Karri McMahon (150) and goalkeeper Jocelyn Bartram (50) celebrated their milestone games on a winning note.

Mollymook's Kalindi Commerford also took part in the match.

With the Australian backline holding firm under mounting pressure and the clock ticking down towards a third straight Hockeyroos match being decided by a penalty shootout, Steph Kershaw was able to thread a pass through to Stewart to bury home the winner with just 12 seconds remaining.

While pleased to snatch maximum points, Hockeyroos Coach Paul Gaudoin admitted his team was somewhat fortunate to be in front when it counted, although he praised the players' ability to fight it out to the end and be rewarded.

"It was pleasing to get the win in the end but I would imagine Great Britain would be disappointed with the outcome," said Gaudoin.

"We were quite messy with the ball and we need to get better with our execution of skill. If you don't have that then it's hard to do any tactics, so we've got be cleaner on the ball to give our front group a chance to do something of quality.

"If we're scratching out a win with the performance we put out tonight, when we start getting it together it will be great."

A seesawing first quarter saw both sides trade penalty corner opportunities without success before Great Britain opened the scoring through Sarah Robinson in the 18th minute.

Fourth time was a charm for the visitors after Australia were unable to clear their lines despite Bartram making three saves in quick succession.Rosie Malone was unable to guide a diving follow up attempt on target, but it mattered little when Greta Hayes assisted Kershaw for the Hockeyroos' equaliser in the 26th minute.

Great Britain got themselves firmly on top with their midfield swarming the home side's outlet options and forcing them to play longer passes.

Australia was forced to nullify eight penalty corner opportunities and required Sophie Taylor and Jodie Kenny to courageously block shots before finishing strong in the final minutes.

A brilliant counter-attacking move led by Brooke Peris saw two set-pieces build pressure on Great Britain before Stewart stole the headlines late on with a reverse stick strike deserving of settling an engrossing encounter.

Bartram was awarded the Player of the Match in her 50th appearance for her role in keeping Great Britain to one goal.

"I'm really proud of our defensive efforts, particularly on penalty corners where we couldn't have done it without the girls running it down, so it's really exciting to get the win today," said Bartram.

"I just tried to do my job for the team. If we all do our job, then hopefully we get the result and it has dropped our way today so I'm really pleased with that.

"You dream of playing one cap and then to be standing here having played 50, it just means a whole lot to me and I hope I get to play a bit more for my country."

Meanwhile, the weather intervened on Sunday and the match was cancelled.

The Hockeyroos took the maximum points from their two FIH Pro League encounters against Great Britain due to persistent lightning and thunderstorms.

After an initial 45 minute delay because of lightning with six minutes to go in the second quarter and Great Britain leading 1-nil, the players returned to complete the first half only for the match to again be halted a minute before the second half was set to resume.

The Hockeyroos will now look ahead to their next FIH Pro League matches against Argentina in Perth on March 6-7.

This story Stewart graces the Hockeyroos with brilliance first appeared on South Coast Register.