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Late Mariah Williams heroics break Japanese hearts again in déjà vu fixture

Published Sat 20 Apr 2024

The Hockeyroos and Mariah Williams have once again claimed a late fourth quarter victory against Japan in a near mirror image of the two side’s tense last meeting at the 2022 World Cup.

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A sunbathed Perth Hockey Stadium played host to an exciting first matchday of the Perth International Festival of Hockey Women’s Series, as wins for China and the Hockeyroos allowed them to take positions at the top of the series ladder ahead of their Sunday matchup.

In the curtain raiser, a Chinese side that has gone from 14th to 8th in the world in the last 2 years dominated Australia A in a 5-1 victory.

But the pinnacle of the evening was the feature match between the Hockeyroos and Japan, who had not met since the Hockeyroos’ last-minute victory in the 2022 Women’s World Cup.

Japan were quick out of the gates. After launching with a frenetic pace, they kept possession for most of the opening stanza, forcing the Hockeyroos to camp in their defensive half and limiting them to a single circle entry in the first ten minutes of play.

The balance appeared to swing back towards the end of the first quarter, and the Perth crowd were celebrating as a driven pass from Bec Greiner was deflected into the net only for the umpire to rule that it had come off a Japanese stick.

Both keepers allowed the stalemate to continue into the second quarter, as a reaction save from Aleisha Power was followed by expert glove work from Japan’s Akio Tanaka during a quadruple Penalty Corner barrage that did not reap reward for the Hockeyroos.

Player of the Match Steph Kershaw remained a constant threat, with her third quarter intercept and cracking long shot eliciting groans from a vocal Perth crowd as it sailed just past the post.

Japan ended the match under siege, as the Australian side streamed forward looking for a break through goal which did not come until the final minute of the match.

A determined Mariah Williams claimed possession from a tackle on the edge of the circle, looked up, and ripped a forceful shot that the Japanese keeper had little hope of keeping out. 

This finalised a 1 – 0 victory to the Hockeyroos, and a rough blow to a buoyant Japanese side who have reason to be optimistic heading into the remainder of the series.

“We knew we were in it together throughout the whole game and finishing off right in the last minute is a reflection of us doing just that,” NSW’s Greta Hayes said post-match

“I was so excited to be back out there, it's been a long time.”

“Having China and Japan come out here for this series is really great for our preparation to be playing against such high quality teams who are all in that same build-up phase in the lead-up to the Olympics.”
All eyes now turn to Sunday’s fixtures, with Australia A set to take on Japan at 2:30pm AWST, and the Hockeyroos to play host to China in the feature match beginning from 4:30pm AWST/6:30PM AEST.

You can see the full Perth International Festival of Hockey schedule here.

All feature matches will be streamed live and free on 7Plus.

Match Details
Hockeyroos: 1 (Mariah Williams 60')
Japan: 0
At Perth Hockey Stadium

Hockeyroos: 1. Claire Colwill, 2. Rosie Malone, 3. Brooke Peris, 4. Amy Lawton, 5. Grace Young, 7. Aleisha Power (gk), 8. Maddison Brooks, 11. Alice Arnott, 12. Greta Hayes, 13. Hattie Shand, 14. Stephanie Kershaw, 15. Kaitlin Nobbs, 17. Lucy Sharman, 18. Jane Claxton (c), 19. Jocelyn Bartam (gk), 20. Karri Somerville, 24. Mariah Williams, 29. Rebecca Greiner