By Max Hall
Wimbledon Hockey Club midfielder David Condon says England wanted to come out on top in last night’s dramatic 3-2 Commonwealth Games semi-final defeat to Australia.
They certainly did and had Australia on the ropes only to be brought down by the lowest of sucker punches.
The hosts roared out of the blocks in front of a deafening crowd at the University of Birmingham, with Phil Roper and Zachary Wallace giving them a 2-0 lead after 18 minutes.
An out of rhythm Australia however gained a foothold in the game, equalized and then scored a much-debated winner that looked to come after a pass from a free-kick for which the ball was still rolling.
“I’m just gutted,” Condon told the South London Press. “We faced each other most of the game, and unfortunately we were just on the wrong end of a few decisions.
“Sometimes at the top level you need a bit of luck, and we feel like they’ve had it, but that’s not the case.
“We gave it our all and came up against arguably one of the best teams in the world. [I’m] disappointed with the result but proud of how we went about it and what we did there.
“We came into this game full of confidence. We were training hard and we wanted to bring it to them.
“We likened it to a boxing match, we wanted to get in that ring and walk right out swinging without even giving them a chance, and I thought we finally did that.”
Inspired by a raucous crowd, an England team that also included Wimbledon stars Jack Waller and Liam Ansell made that ambition a reality by playing hockey at a blistering pace, which made them look faster, fitter and hungrier than their legendary opponents.
Roper’s goal was fired at Andrew Charter, in the Australian goal, on the turn after 11 minutes to reward the hosts’ dominant play, and when captain Wallace fired home a penalty kick after sending Charter into the wrong meaning from the point, it looked like England. the forefoot aggression had to pay off.
Blake Govers withdrew one for Australia, and England’s Will Calnan was sentenced for ten minutes after an unnecessary show of dissent towards the officials, but even when team-mate Thomas Sorsby joined him for two minutes – leaving the England play nine against 11 – the home team maintained their energy level.
Although Australia were never at their best, they showed why they dominated the sport in these games towards the end of the third period, rushing on a rare lack of vigilance from England to sweep the ball away from area to area, moving it right to left, rugby style, for Jacob Anderson to make it 2-2.
As the crowd began to harass the officials as Ansell was shown a green card following the equaliser, a chorus of boos rained down from the stands as the Australian winner, sent home by Daniel Beale in front of goal, was allowed to stand, 10min 28sec time.
The replays on the big screen appeared to show the free-kick for the forwards just before the goal was scored with a rolling ball, but the video referee stuck to the call on the pitch. When England failed to get a penalty corner at the other end soon after, the crowd became mutiny.
Condon managed to take a diplomatic line on the winning goal afterwards, saying: “If that’s what the video saw, we need to be confident that the people in the right positions are doing their jobs and playing by the rules. We all have our opinions, but we have to trust the decision.
With 145 seconds remaining, England threw caution to the wind and took off their keeper to go all out for a leveler. The roof came off the stadium again 26.2 seconds from when England were awarded a last-minute corner, but the fatigue their all-action display had caused them finally became evident when the move snagged. collapsed after Condon was put in place.
The result sends England into a bronze-medal play-off against South Africa, who lost 3-2 to India in the previous game in Edgbaston, and Condon promised the games hosts would be ready to 9 a.m. Monday morning.
“We’ll go back to the locker room and give ourselves half an hour to decompress and let out in the ice baths,” the Wimbledon man said. “At the end of the day, it’s about being professional. We’ll look at it like any other game. Take the emotion out and just watch the process, the process, the process, and then we’ll rebuild.
On South Africa, the midfielder said: “We’ve played them in the Pro League so we’ll take full confidence from that, but we give them due respect, so we do the diligence and the video, and finally we will treat the match exactly as we did today.
“We are going to walk on this ground swinging, and hopefully we will take bronze.”
Today, at 3 p.m., it’s the turn of the England women’s team, who will also face Australia, this time for the gold medal. Wimbledon trio Anna Toman, Fiona Crackles and Hollie Pearne-Webb are hoping to bring the winner’s medal back to south London.
PHOTO: MAX ROOM