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Black Sticks men thrashed by Australia in Pro League

The Kookaburras have finished their home section of hockey's new Pro League on a high, trouncing New Zealand 5-1 at Sydney Olympic Park today.

Two goals to Tom Wickham along with singles to Jack Welch, Daniel Beale and Jeremy Hayward lifted the home team to the top of the table with 16 points from seven games.

Despite the scoreline, New Zealand goalkeeper Richard Joyce was outstanding and prevented further carnage as Australia attacked relentlessly and backed up impressively after scraping home against Argentina 3-2 on Saturday.

Australia now has a six-week break before playing in New Zealand on Anzac Day, then the European away games, and the finals in Holland in June.

Australia surrendered its No.1 ranking and the trophy at last year's World Cup but has rebounded strongly in the Pro League with five straight wins after an indifferent opening weekend.

"We spoke at length last night about being consistent for the four quarters and we did that really well today," said assistant coach Anthony Potter.

"Being calm under pressure is a massive focus for us at the moment and we chose the right times to do a lot of good things."

More than 70mm of rain fell overnight and on Sunday morning and threatened to delay or even cancel the games, but ground staff worked tirelessly to drain the pitch to a playable standard.

And the Australians soon began as they did against Argentina, scoring twice in the first quarter.

Wickham roofed a flick from close range in the 12th minute, and barely 90 seconds later Hayward drove home a powerful penalty corner flick.

But the Kiwis hit back immediately when Hayden Phillips squeezed a shot past Tyler Lovell after the Australians failed to clear a corner.

It was all Australia in the second quarter, with multiple shots saved or just going wide, until a superb through ball by Jake Whetton found Welch who unleashed a tomahawk that gave Joyce no chance.

Wickham was gifted a second goal straight after the resumption when his slap shot from close range squeezed between Joyce's pads, and Beale made it 5-1 minutes later when he tackled Kiwi fullback Shea McAleese and shot truly.

There was a minute's silence before the game to remember the victims of Friday's mass shooting in Christchurch.

Current NZ coach Darren Smith says his team would love to beat his predecessor, Colin Batch, who now coaches Australia.
Source: Photosport


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