The world No.2 Kookaburras have scored two goals in the final four minutes to escape with a 3-1 win over New Zealand in their trans-Tasman series opener in Palmerston North.
Australia dominated Thursday’s match but had to wait until midway through the third quarter to open the scoring through Tim Brand.
The Black Sticks struggled to create clear-cut opportunities, but it was game on when 19-year-old debutant Sean Findlay scored with less than seven minutes remaining to level it at 1-1.
The Kookaburras entered the match having only ever lost twice to the Black Sticks – in 2011 and 2016 – and they were desperate to avoid a third defeat to their world No.8 rivals.
Goals to Kookaburras duo Trent Mitton and Tom Wickham in the dying minutes sealed the win.
Mitton scored from a simple tap-in after substitute NZ goalkeeper George Enersen had made two sharp saves.
And Wickam sealed the deal with 44 seconds remaining with a sharp strike from close range.
Daniel Beale, who set up the third goal, also assisted the first, where his no look pass was deflected in by Brand.
“We’re just pleased to be here. It was awesome to be back on the field,” Kookaburras captain Eddie Ockenden told Sky Sports.
“We did OK in the second half, so a good start.
“We’ve been training for a long time, so to play an international match is good. The tempo was a big step up from training, which is good and it’s why we’re here.”
NZ captain Blair Tarrant was forced off in the opening minutes after copping a ball to the face.
Tarrant was stitched up, but he failed to return.
Australia dominated the opening term with five-shots-to-nil, but NZ goalkeeper Leon Hayward came up with the goods time and again to deny the visitors.
After 446 days had passed since the Kookaburras’ last international, the frustrations continued to build during the scoreless second quarter.
The goals flowed more freely in the second half, with the Kookaburras lifting late to seal the win.
Game two of the four-match series will be held on Friday.