Commonwealth GamesSport

Wimbledon Hockey Club midfielder’s verdict as England suffer Commonwealth semi-final defeat to Australia

By Max Hall

Wimbledon Hockey Club midfielder David Condon said England wanted to come out swinging in last night’s dramatic Commonwealth Games semi-final 3-2 defeat to Australia.

They certainly did that and had Australia on the ropes only to be downed by the lowest of sucker punches.

The hosts roared out of the blocks in front of a deafening crowd at Birmingham University, with Phil Roper and Zachary Wallace giving them a 2-0 lead after 18 minutes. 

An off-the-pace Australia gained a foothold in the game, though, levelled and then scored a highly controversial winner which appeared to come after a pass from a free hit for which the ball was still rolling.

“I’m just gutted,” Condon told the South London Press. “We went toe-to-toe pretty much the whole game, and unfortunately, we were just on the wrong end of a couple of decisions.

“Sometimes, at the top level, you need that little bit of luck, and we feel like they had it, but we didn’t.

“We gave it everything and went toe-to-toe with arguably one of the best teams in the world. [I’m] disappointed with the result but proud with how we went about it and what we did out there.

“We came into that game full of confidence. We’d been training hard, and we wanted to take it to them.

“We likened it to a boxing match, we wanted to enter that ring and come out swinging straight away and not even give them a chance, and I thought we ultimately did that.”

Inspired by a boisterous crowd, an England team which also featured Wimbledon stars Jack Waller and Liam Ansell delivered on that ambition, playing high-tempo hockey, which saw them look faster, fitter and hungrier than their storied opponents.

Roper’s goal was fired across 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 stroke after sending Charter the wrong way from the spot, it looked like England’s front-foot aggression was set to pay off.

Blake Govers pulled one back for Australia, and England’s Will Calnan was sin-binned for ten minutes after a pointless display of dissent to the officials, but even when teammate Thomas Sorsby joined him for two minutes – leaving England playing nine versus 11 – the home team kept up their energy levels.

While Australia never looked their best, they showed why they dominate the sport at these games near the end of the third period, pouncing on a rare lapse in England’s vigilance to sweep the ball from one area to the other, moving it right to left, rugby-style, for Jacob Anderson to make it 2-2.

With the crowd starting to hector the officials as a green card was shown to Ansell in the wake of the equaliser, a chorus of boos rained down from the stands when Australia’s winner, fired home by Daniel Beale in front of goal, was allowed to stand, 10min 28sec from time.

The big screen replays appeared to indicate the free hit for the attackers immediately before the goal had been made with a rolling ball, but the video referee stood by the on-field call. When England failed to be awarded a penalty corner at the other end shortly afterwards, the crowd became mutinous.

Condon was somehow able to take a diplomatic line about the winning goal afterwards, stating: “If that’s what the video saw, we’ve got to trust that the people in the right positions are doing their job and following the rules. We all have our opinions, but we’ve got to trust the decision.”

With 145 seconds left, England threw caution to the wind and took off their keeper to go all-out for a leveller. The roof came off the stadium again 26.2 seconds from time when England secured a last-gasp penalty corner, but the tiredness their all-action display had caused them finally became evident as the move collapsed after Condon’s put-in.

The result sends England into a bronze medal play-off against South Africa, who had lost 3-2 to India in the previous match at Edgbaston, and Condon pledged the games’ hosts would be ready at 9am on Monday morning.

“We’ll go back into the changing room and give ourselves half an hour to decompress and let it out in the ice baths,” said the Wimbledon man. “Ultimately, it’s about being professional. We’ll review it like any other game. Take the emotion out and just look at process, process, process and then we’ll build again.”

On South Africa, the midfielder said: “We’ve played them in the Pro League, so we’ll take every confidence from that, but we’re giving them the due respect, so we’re doing the diligence and the video, and ultimately we’ll treat the match exactly like we did today.

“We’ll step on that pitch swinging, and hopefully we’ll take the bronze.”

Today, at 3pm, it is the turn of England’s women’s team, who will also take on Australia, this time for the gold medal. Wimbledon trio Anna Toman, Fiona Crackles and Hollie Pearne-Webb will be hoping to bring a winner’s medal back to South London.


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