HC Melbourne turn it on against Adelaide Fire

By Adam Clifford

HC Melbourne has had a night to remember in Adelaide as the Women’s and Men’s teams both recorded impressive victories on the opening night of the penultimate round of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League 2022 Season.

Women’s Match

A three-goal final term has seen HC Melbourne jump top of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League Women’s ladder with a come-from-behind 4-1 victory over the Adelaide Fire.

In the Fire’s last home appearance for the season, they fought gallantly but were ultimately overwhelmed in the final stanza by the powerful visitors.

HC Melbourne were dealt a selection blow, with key duo Josie Lawton and Aisling Utri unavailable, but they gritted their teeth to secure a win in the city of churches.

“Adelaide is a great team and they really showed that today,” Player of the Match Amy Lawton said post-game.

“It’s a great battle. I think the whole Hockey One League is really even which is awesome.”

“You can see on the women’s ladder there’s 3-5 teams all pretty even, with great teams and great players and we’re lucky to come away with it as it could have gone any way going into that third quarter.”

Lawton was pleased to see her side have many contributors across the pitch and leapfrog the Canberra Chill into top position on the ladder.

“They (Canberra) have been performing well as a team and I think for us, we just wanted to put ourselves in the best position heading into the finals series and I think goal difference was the only thing between us and Canberra heading into this week.”

“It’s a good challenge. We wanted to put ourselves out there and play really hard and aggressive heading into the finals and this was a good start.”

Both sides had earlier traded penalty corner opportunities that merely served as appetizers for opposing goalkeepers Kelsey Bing (Adelaide Fire) and Rachael Lynch (HC Melbourne).

The Fire were sparked by Gabi Nance’s brilliant vision and assist for teammate Jet Mallinson to smash home a forestick strike at the near post.

Lynch responded to emphatically swat away the conversion opportunity, before HC Melbourne’s Rosario Villagra had back-to-back chances for the visitors to start the second quarter.

But their way back into the contest arrived with Krissy Bates sending Bing the wrong way from the penalty spot, before the latter scrambled away Lawton’s conversion attempt after it ricocheted off the woodwork.

Efforts from Miki Spano, Nance and Julie King almost re-gained the lead for the hosts before Bing was again called upon to deny HC Melbourne skipper Hannah Gravenall.

With time ticking away it was the lady of the moment, Lawton, who thumped home from a tomahawk strike to push HC Melbourne in front 2-1.

Forced to chase the game to keep their finals hopes alive, a desperate Fire were undone by a defensive error as the impressive Hannah Cotter knocked into an unguarded net and duly converted to seal an important victory.

HC Melbourne will finish the regular season by hosting the Tassie Tigers on Thursday 10 November from 6:30pm, while Adelaide Fire can spoil the party with victory away to the Brisbane Blaze the following night.

Match Details
Adelaide Fire 1 (Mallinson 14’)
HC Melbourne 4 (Bates 24’, Lawton 54’, Cotter 57’/57’)
Thursday 3 November 2022
MATE Stadium, SA
Umpires: Kerryl Brown & Deb O’Connell

Adelaide Fire Women’s team: 1.Linzi Appleyard, 5.Kelsey Bing (gk), 7.Kate Holland-Smith, 8.Holly Evans-Gill, 10.Carly Hoffmann, 11.Lucy Sharman, 13.Sarah Harrison (c), 16.Jet Mallinson, 17.Siennah Cowles, 18.Erin Cameron, 19.Gabi Nance, 20.Hattie Shand, 21.Miki Spano, 23.Izzy Gill, 30.Julia King

HC Melbourne Women’s team: 3.Nicola Hammond, 4.Amy Lawton, 5.Krissy Bates, 7.Ciara Utri, 8.Hannah Cotter, 9.Carly James, 10.Rosario Villagra, 11.Joanne Peeters, 12.Emily Hamilton-Smith, 13.Megan Alakus, 14.Anna Moore, 15.Olivia Downes, 20.Zali Ward, 25.Hannah Gravenall (c), 27.Rachael Lynch (gk)


Men’s Match

A breathtaking attacking display from HC Melbourne put the Adelaide Fire to the sword with a 9-1 demolition job to belatedly open their Sultana Bran Hockey One League account at MATE Stadium in convincing fashion.

HC Melbourne coach Lachlan Anderson was beaming post-game after seeing his luckless side complete a comprehensive performance, the largest winning margin of the season.

Entering the match, HC Melbourne had only scored twice from twenty-eight penalty corner opportunities, and they found their mojo thanks to a hat-trick from captain Josh Simmonds as they went with four goals from nine attempts.

“It’s been in there somewhere. We’ve been working hard but haven’t got the results. We’ve had opportunities early in games, earlier in the season, but we haven’t been able to put them away and probably played against a bit of scoreboard pressure,” HC Melbourne co-captain Russell Ford said post-game.

“Tonight we put some chances away early and the boys got a bit of confidence up and we had some fun out there, so it’s good to see some of the hard work pay off on the scoreboard.”

“We want to go out there and have fun. That’s why I still play at my age but sometimes it’s harder when you’re losing and we just got back to basics, worked hard and enjoyed each other’s company and got the win tonight.”

Simmonds, who was at his lethal best with his drag flicks, was named Player of the Match.

“We’ve had a lot of corners this year and haven’t been able to get them on the board as much as we did tonight, so it was really good that the floodgates opened,” Simmonds said.

“We’ve been practicing a lot of direct flicks, but also that variation outside the five. It’s a major part of the game now to get that score conversion.”

The Adelaide Fire were brave, with livewire forwards Isaac Whittaker, Jack Holland and Zach Rakkas all showing glimpses, but it was their goalkeeper Christian Starkie that was under siege from the opening minute.

Earlier, Simmonds, who’d been starved of pure set piece opportunities in the opening rounds, kickstarted the rout with a powerful penalty corner goal in the fourth minute.

Cameron White fired a warning shot for Adelaide before Simmons connected with Ford, whose quick ball across the face was turned in by Nathan Copey and duly converted to make it 3-0.

Damon Steffens added another before the first interval with a powerful penalty corner that reverberated around the ground.

Three consecutive set pieces for the Fire ignited their performance in the second term, but Simmonds returned to haunt them with his second goal in the 26th minute.

The crowd did eventually get their moment when a defence-splitting pass from Holland was chipped over the onrushing Johan Durst in goal by Whittaker to peg the score back, although the latter lost control of their conversion chance.

With the result gone in the final stanza, HC Melbourne added further goals to Nathan Ephraums (2 goals), Simmonds and Josh Bretherton to cap a comprehensive win.

HC Melbourne will now seek to end their season on a high when they host the Tassie Tigers next Thursday night, in a match the visitors will need to win to secure a finals berth, while the Adelaide Fire have one final chance to end their hoodoo away to the Brisbane Blaze on Friday night.

Match Details
Adelaide Fire 1 (Whittaker 37’)
HC Melbourne 9 (Simmonds 5’/26’/53’, Copey 9’/9’, Steffens 10’, Ephraums 47’/47’, Josh Bretherton 54’)
Thursday 3 November 2022
MATE Stadium, SA
Umpires: Ben De Young & Zeke Newman

Adelaide Fire Men’s team: 2.Connor Richmond-Spouse, 3.Isaac Whittaker, 5.Jack Holland, 6.Angus Fry, 7.Geoff Abbott, 8.Brodie Gleeson, 9.Fred Gray, 12.Mitchell Dell, 15.William Abbott, 17.Zach Rakkas, 18.Alastair Oliver, 19.Glyn Tamlin (c), 20.Matthew Magann, 22.Christian Starkie (gk), 23.Cameron White

HC Melbourne Men’s team: 1.Craig Marais, 2.Max Hendry, 3.Jonathan Bretherton, 5.Doug Buckley, 6.Damon Steffens, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 8.Lachlan Steinfort, 10.Russell Ford, 13.Jayshaan Randhawa, 15.Josh Simmonds (c), 17.Kiran Arunasalam, 18.Johan Durst (gk), 20.Josh Bretherton, 21.Jake Sherren, 22.Nathan Copey