A day after triumphing in similar circumstances, the Hockeyroos have gone down to Belgium 3-1 in a penalty shootout after scores were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time in their FIH Pro League match in Sydney.
The match was a tale of two halves, separated by a 55 minute weather delay as a thunderstorm swept over Homebush, with Belgium holding the upper-hand until the break.
Louise Versavel had the best chance of the opening quarter but was unable to guide an effort on target, before the Hockeyroos hit the woodwork from a Grace Stewart penalty corner deflection.
Versavel earned the visitors a penalty stroke after being impeded by Gabi Nance while shaping to shoot in the 22nd minute. Called in to replace the injured Ashlee Wells, Rachael Lynch came to the Hockeyroos rescue with an incredible stick save diving to her right to deny Belgium’s Tiphaine Duquesne.
As lightning closed in with eighty seconds left until half-time, Australia’s defenders had been the busier of the sides with Belgium leading the circle entry count 13-7.
The Hockeyroos came out a different outfit upon the resumption as they started to control the tempo which Belgium had held for much of the first half.
The third term belonged firmly to the world number two hosts and they thought they had the lead when Stewart scrambled a rebound from above her head across the line but, after some initial confusion on review, Australia was only awarded a penalty corner.
Then 24 seconds from three quarter time, Australia broke the deadlock as Gabi Nance deflected home her eighth Hockeyroos goal and first since 2017 after a circle entry from Amy Lawton and a smart assist from Jane Claxton.
But the lead lasted barely two minutes as Duquesne made amends for her earlier effort, her shot managing to find its way under the body of an outstretched Lynch in the 47th minute.
The Hockeyroos finished with a flurry of penalty corners to end with 12 for the match, Brooke Peris narrowly missing a half-chance on the buzzer to send the game to another shootout.
Versavel opened the scoring for Belgium before goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe rose off the bench to save Stewart and Nance’s efforts.
After Steph Kershaw was unable convert, skipper Jodie Kenny struck truly but it was sandwiched between conversions to Duqesne and captain Barbara Nelen to leave the teams with a penalty shootout victory each over the two matches.
“There is no question we were better in the second half,” said Hockeyroos Head Coach Paul Gaudoin.
“A couple of things weren’t working early on, so we tweaked a few things and it was pleasing that we came out in the third quarter and dominated the second half.”
“We had chances at the end to score but we’ve got to become more ruthless when we finish.”
“These were our first matches of the year so there is time to build and get better, but at the end of the day it is about training hard and translating that into the matches.”
“Over the two games there were some really good things and some things where we have to demand more of ourselves individually and collectively, so we’re looking forward to playing against Great Britain and testing ourselves against another quality team.”
The Hockeyroos are back at Sydney Olympic Park next weekend to take on reigning Olympic gold medallists Great Britain on 1/2 February.
Tickets for the double headers against Great Britain are available through Ticketek, with the matches shown LIVE on Fox Sports and/or Kayo.
Hockeyroos 1 (Nance 45’)
Belgium 1 (Duquesne 47’)
Belgium wins 3-1 on penalties
@ Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre
Hockeyroos: 2.Rosie MALONE, 3.Brooke PERIS, 4.Amy LAWTON, 7.Jodie KENNY, 8.Georgia WILSON, 11.Karri McMAHON, 13.Edwina BONE, 14.Stephanie KERSHAW, 15.Kaitlin NOBBS, 16.Gabrielle NANCE, 18.Jane CLAXTON, 21.Renee TAYLOR, 22.Kate JENNER, 23.Kalindi COMMERFORD, 26.Emily CHALKER (c), 27.Rachael LYNCH (gk), 30 Grace STEWART
Unused substitute: 19.Jocelyn BARTRAM (gk)
Belgium: 2.Sophie LIMAUGE, 3.Abi RAYE, 7.Judith VANDERMEIREN, 8.Emma PUVREZ, 10.Louise VERSAVEL, 15.Anne-Sophie WEYNS, 16.Tiphanie DUQUESNE, 17.Michelle STRUIJK, 19.Barbara NELEN (c), 23.Elena SOTGIU (gk), 24.Anne-Sophie VANDEN BORRE, 25.Pauline LECLEF, 26.Lien HILLEWAERT, 28.Justine RASIR, 30.Ambre BALLENGHIEN, 32.Charlotte ENGLEBERT, 33.Alexia ‘T SERSTEVENS
Unused substitute: 21.Aisling D’HOOGHE (gk)