A Blair Hilton brace and a Stephen Jenness strike were not enough to prevent the men's Black Sticks going down 5-3 to Australia in the final of the inaugural international nine-a-side hockey tournament in Perth last night.
New Zealand, hoping to avenge their 7-1 defeat in the pool matches, made a terrible start against the champions and conceded two goals - to Glenn Simpson and Russell Ford - inside the first seven minutes.
But the Kiwis did not roll over, Hilton smashing in a field goal a minute later to halve the deficit.
Playing their aggressive attacking game, the Australians put the Kiwi defence under considerable pressure, however, and they restored the two-goal margin in the 14th minute through Jamie Dwyer, only for Hilton to scramble in his second goal as the hosts led 3-2 at halftime.
With captain Shea McAleese in superb form in the midfield, the Black Sticks came out firing after the break and Jenness soon levelled the scores at 3-3 when he finished off an excellent team move to smash the ball low into the corner.
The hosts composed themselves and withstood the New Zealand onslaught, however, edging ahead again when Liam De Young scored from a penalty corner before Glenn Turner sealed victory for the Australians when he scored on a counter-attack in the final minute.
New Zealand coach Shane McLeod was disappointed with the result but delighted with the performances of some of his younger players.
"We took the game to the Australians today and the boys played really well.
After our performances in the Oceania Cup earlier this month, it is clear that we are improving all the time and we are now pushing the world No 1 team every time we play them."
In the bronze medal play-off, Pakistan crushed India 4-1.
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