England almost achieved the unthinkable against Australia but will have no time to lick their wounds as they bid to come away from Birmingham 2022 with a men’s hockey medal.
The Kookaburras have won every single edition of men’s hockey at the Commonwealth Games, going all the way back to 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.
In fact those Games in Malaysia were the only time they lost a game, South Africa getting one over on them in the group stages.
Since then, their dominance has been total, but England threatened them in the semi-final stage on Saturday, racing into a 2-0 lead.
They were eventually undone by Daniel Beale’s controversial winner, going down 3-2, and will instead have to settle for a bronze-medal clash with South Africa.
That would match the achievements of 2018, with Birmingham’s Chris Griffiths one of those who was part of that team that recovered from a similarly disappointing loss to Australia to take a bronze. Sam Ward was also in that side, and knows that the team cannot afford to wallow in the Australia loss.
He said: “It’s simple, we need to get on the recovery quickly. We need to clear our heads. We take a couple of hours to get over it and then it’s next focus, South Africa on Monday to make sure we go home with a medal.
“It’s massive. We haven’t medalled since the last Commies. Obviously there has been Covid in the middle of it and there haven’t been as many events but to be able to go home with a medal would be unbelievable.”
England made a dream start against the Australians, Phil Roper putting them in front after being played in by skipper Zach Wallace.
The captain doubled the advantage with a penalty stroke, but Blake Govers’ strike from a penalty corner just before half-time swung the momentum as England paid the price for their indiscipline, two yellow cards and two green meaning that they spent much of the match playing with ten or even nine.
Jacob Anderson levelled towards the end of the third quarter before Beale’s winner, given despite a video referral and clear evidence that a free-hit had not been stopped after the whistle, with the England players biting their tongues at the decision.
Wallace said: “The message we have got at the start of the tournament was that the ball has to be stopped. That’s why we reviewed it, we felt they didn’t make an attempt to stop it but the video ref gave what he gave. We have to live with that.
“I’m absolutely gutted. I really wanted to win that game and take us to that gold medal match we’ve not been to before. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a bronze medal to win. South Africa are a good side, a dangerous side, so our attention turns to winning the bronze.”
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