In-form Trent Mitton has scored a double as nine-man Australia heroically held on to record a 2-1 win over England on Friday night to clinch a spot in the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match.
The Kookaburras will now play New Zealand in Saturday’s final at 9:15pm AEST, with the Hockeyroos also to play their Trans-Tasman rivals earlier in the day in the women’s gold medal match, representing a bumper day for hockey in Australia.
Mitton scored within 26 seconds to send the Kookaburras on their way, but England levelled in the third period through Ian Sloan.
The Western Australian forward scored the winner from a penalty corner in the 50th minute, taking his Games tally to six goals in five games.
Australia came under intense pressure in the final 10 minutes after yellow cards to Daniel Beale and Tom Craig but clung on.
The contest was tight throughout with 50-50 possession and Australia winning four penalty corners to England’s three, but the Kookaburras had more circle entries (23-14) and shots (11-4) and were good value for the win, despite the late pressure.
Mitton opened the scoring in the first minute with a powerful diagonal shot through England goalkeeper George Pinner’s legs after Beale’s release.
Western Australian Mitton almost turned provider seven minutes later when he set free a diving Dylan Wotherspoon but Pinner denied him.
Australia survived a scare when James Gall found space on the baseline on the left side but the ball bobbled away safely after an Andrew Charter save.
The Kookaburras should have doubled their lead in the 21st minute on a fast break when Tom Wickham opted to lay off for Mitton who was thwarted by the onrushing Harry Gibson.
Australia hit the post in the 25th minute after a moment of hesitation from England keeper Gibson, with the final touch coming off Lachlan Sharp.
England came close in the 28th minute when Sam Ward, who had received a yellow card earlier in the quarter, missed after Liam Ansell’s pass.
Australia won a penalty corner in the final minute of the first half but Jeremy Hayward’s drag flick was blocked.
Australia were first to come close in the second half after a fine move down the left flank with Mitton and Wotherspoon combining to release the speedy Craig but Pinner got there first.
A minute later England won their first penalty corner with substitute keeper Tyler Lovell palming away Mark Gleghorne’s effort.
Moments later the visitors levelled when an unmarked Ian Sloan converted at the back post after a baseline run in the 37th minute.
Wickham flicked a shot wide, while the Kookas launched a late third period raid when Beale drove forward but Pinner kicked away from Wickham’s cutback.
Australia won a penalty corner in the 50th minute after a push on Sharp, with Hayward denied with two drag flicks before Mitton fired in from the third attempt. England referred Mitton’s drag flick but the goal was upheld.
Barely a minute later, Beale was handed a 10-minute yellow card for a slide tackle, ensuring a tense finale for the Kookaburras.
England won a penalty corner in the 53rd minute, with Lovell saving well from Gleghorne’s drag flick, before the visitors boldly replaced goalkeeper Gibson with an outfield player with seven minutes remaining, with Australia a man down.
Craig also received a yellow card late on to further give England a numerical advantage, but Australia held on to secure a spot in Saturday’s gold medal match.
Australia 2 (Mitton 1’, 49’)
England 1 (Sloan 37’)