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Australia wins Darwin 4 nations championship
04 May 2008 17:07

The Kookaburras have overcome a determined Chinese team to win the Darwin 4 nations championship after the final match was forced to a penalty stroke shoot out.

The match saw many momentum swings with both teams controlling the play at various stages.

Although the Kookaburras remained undefeated throughout the tournament, China will take a lot out of the match which saw them push the world's second ranked side to the end.

China started the opening stages at a ferocious pace, attempting to catch the Kookaburras off guard with fast breaks down the left wing.

However after several minutes the game settled and the Kookaburras appeared to be in control of the play, with Liam De Young and Eli Matheson active throughout the midfield and forward area.

An impressive steal from Des Abbott lead to the Kookaburras first penalty corner of the half. However the Chinese defense remained tight and successfully repelled the attack.

The Kookaburras continued to push up forward with Eddie Ockenden displaying his skill with a clever trap in the circle and although the shot traveled just wide of the goal, the signs were improving for the Kookaburras.

China lifted their tempo towards the end of the half, testing goalkeeper Stephen Mowlam on several occasions and were unlucky not to have scored when a shot slammed into the frame of the goal.

However the Kookaburras seemed destined to score the first goal, with local favorite Des Abbott stepping up following an impressive steal from Jamie Dwyer and cross from the dangerous Ockenden.

The Kookaburras maintained their momentum into the second half, with penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner continuing his good tournament form to convert in the opening minutes of the second half to give the Kookaburras some breathing room.

The game tightened up only minutes later when the Kookaburras were reduced to ten players following Jamie Dwyer being sent from the pitch by the umpire for five minutes following a collision deep in China's half.

A Chinese goal seemed immanent and eventually came at the 48 minute mark from a penalty corner conversion.

China continued to apply the pressure and leveled the scores with only 15 minutes remaining following a cross deep into their circle which found Yi Song open despite the best efforts of Mowlam in the goals.

Jamie Dwyer lifted his game in an attempt to help the Kookaburras regain the lead but China were playing with spirit, with the prospect of defeating the much higher ranked Australian team providing plenty of motivation.

After several close calls in defense which were stopped thanks mainly to the efforts of Mowlam the Kookaburras found themselves with a chance to win the game as the clock ran down with a penalty corner attempt still to be taken.

However the shot traveled over the goal, forcing the game into extra time.

The momentum changed on several occasions throughout the extra time period however the game seemed destined for a penalty stroke shoot out.

The stroke shoot out started with plenty of drama, with the 2007 WorldHockey Player of the year Jamie Dwyer missing the first attempt.

When China scored the next two goals it looked likely they would record the win, however a brilliant save from keeper Stephen Mowlam and a Chinese goal that was disallowed brought the Kookaburras back into the game and when the scores were still tied after both teams had taken five shots, the shoot out moved to sudden death.

Both teams traded goals on the first three occasions however China's fourth attempt hit the metal frame of the goal, allowing Luke Doerner to step up and convert his shot to hand the victory to the Kookaburras.

The tournament proved very beneficial to the Kookaburras, exposing them to world class opponents while also giving them a taste of the weather they can expect in Beijing.

Further selection headaches loom for coach Barry Dancer, with youngsters such as Eli Matheson and Des Abbott more than holding their own throughout the tournament, while keepers Stephen Mowlam and Nathan Burgers were also equally impressive.

Kookaburras 9 China 8 (penalty stroke shoot out - score at full time was 2-2)
Goals - Aus Abbott 33m FG, Aus Doerner 40m PC, Chn Hu 48m PC, Chn Song 55m FG

Source: Hockey Australia

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