The final day of hockey at the Riverbank Arena and the two teams playing off for the Bronze medal position would have been seething at the thought at missing out in the day’s later game.
Australia and Great Britain had already met in the group stages and the bitter intense sporting rivalry between the two sides was once more thrust into the headlines of the day. For the fans, which have been a revelation at this year’s Games, it was to be a day to be savoured, one last hurrah before the Hockey World Cup in the Netherlands in 2014, a chance to see some excellent teamwork and close control of the ball. It was also an opportunity for the home contingent to hold just a little bit of hope that the men could at least match the women’s achievement of the night before.
At the very least, the whole of the British team needed to exorcise some major demons as they tried to get over the lesson given to them by the Dutch in the semi-final.
For the first 25 minutes the British defence performed admirably, producing some of the best defensive work and tight marking of the tournament for the team. Every time the Australians poured forward they soaked up the pressure and showed glimpses of what really might have been had they been on the ball from the start of the competition. It couldn’t last though as Australia finally found some space and Simon Orchard tucked the ball home to give the men in Green and Gold first blood.
The home fans had to wait for Great Britain to calm down and rebuild once more before they had anything to cheer as the home side’s first penalty corner of the match ended in some fine work between Ashley Jackson and Iain Lewers and the scores being level. It was a very acute angle which saw the ball go into the net and Lewers would have been a very relieved man to see the ball go past Burgers in the Australian goal. Credit must go to Ashley Jackson though as it was his sweeping pass from the corner, played with incredible vision to see Lewers free, that led to the goal.
For both sides there was optimism, the possibility of being the better team on the day and like their group game it could go all the way to being level at the end of 70 minutes.
Ben Hawes, the British defender should be singled out as being a player whose improvement in the last days is one of the reasons that Great Britain went into half-time on parity with Australia. His strength and work rate were as such, that it was a pleasure to see the Wimbledon man making his 220th appearance.
A professional foul though given away by Alistair Wilson was not the way to keep Great Britain in the hunt for Bronze, a five minute penalty for the Beeston player put the home side under pressure that they could ill afford. It was then no surprise that the Australian team went out on all-out attack mode. Penalty corner after penalty corner, wave after wave ended up with Australia’s leading ever goal scorer, Jamie Dwyer, adding one more to his ever growing tally. It has to be said that the resolve of the British team showed a marked improvement from the thrashing handed out to them a few days earlier and by the time Wilson’s suspension was over, there was only the one goal deficit.
With 13 minutes left on the clock it looked as though the game was over as a shot that was initially parried by Fair in goal, fell unfortunately to the stick of Govers who had the easiest nock into the net he will probably ever have to make it three-one to the Australians.
Despite some excellent play by Daly and Clarke towards the end of the match and taking the gamble of playing without a goalkeeper, Great Britain couldn’t find a way past Burgers in the Australian goal.
This was a much better display by Great Britain, full of running and spirit but in the end they couldn’t match the determination of the female counterparts who gained bronze. There is no shame in losing to Australia which has been an exceptional side in these Olympics, however the sport needs to be looked at in depth if Britain is going to challenge for Olympic Gold ever again.
Australia: Dwyer, De Young, Orchard, Turner, Ciriello, Knowles, Ockenden, Carroll, Gohdes, Burgers, Kavanagh.
Substitutes: Butturini, Ford, Deavin, Swann, Govers.
Manager: Graham Reid
Great Britain: Kirkham, Jackson, Clarke, Moore, Hawes, Middleton, Tindall, Lewers, Fair, Fox, Smith.
Substitutes: Martin, Daly, Wilson, Mackay, Catlin.
Manager: Andy Halliday
Final Score: Australia 3–1 Great Britain
Goal Scorers: Orchard, Dywer, Govers (Australia). Lewers (Great Britain)
Ian D. Hall