Tokyo 2020 Recap: Women’s Water Polo – Australia vs Canada

Australia has earned the chance to take on the Netherlands for a fifth place finish in Women's Water Polo for Tokyo 2020. Picture: Water Polo Australia Facebook

Australia secured a spot in the fifth place playoff after winning a thriller against Canada by way of a penalty shootout. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Stingers start second in a shootout

Both sides entered the pool knowing there was no medal up for grabs, but with fifth place and some pride on the line, there was more than enough incentive to play well in this classification match.

It was the underdogs, Canada, who got both the game and the scoring underway, winning the swim-off and scoring from the first attack.

la Roche lobbed the ball over Yanitsas in the Australian goal who came into the side replacing Gabriella Palm who was arguably the player of the match in the Stingers’ Semi-Final.

It took some time but eventually the Stingers found an answer, Keesja Gofers scoring her fifth of the tournament and bringing the Aussies level.

It didn’t last long, though, with Canadian captain Monika Eggens firing home from close range on the wing to beat Yanitsas.

Again, though, Australia was able to answer, this time through Zoe Arancini, one of the standout Stingers of the Olympics.

It was goal for goal in the early stages with three and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.

An exclusion to Amy Ridge left Canada with the numerical advantage but Yanitsas was able to make a great save, keeping the scores level.

la Roche scored her second with two minutes to play in the quarter and again, Canada had the ascendancy.

With a minute left, Lena Mihailovic had a golden opportunity but fumbled the ball, causing the Aussies to run out of time in the possession, the score remaining 2-3 in favour of Canada.

A Canadian block on the stroke of quarter time meant that the lead was maintained, Canada heading into the break a goal to the good.

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Webster’s defining moment

Tilly Kearns won the swim-off for Australia, getting her country on the front foot in the second quarter.

It paid dividends as, following the first possession, a Canadian foul caused a turnover and Bronwen Knox took full advantage, skimming a shot off the water and into the top corner.

The pattern of the game continued in the second quarter, Canada answering just two possessions later and once again opening up a one goal lead.

True to form, the Stingers drew level again, this time through an Amy Ridge thunderbolt from long range.

The game slowed down at the midway point of the quarter with both defences on top for the first time in the match, neither side able to register any dangerous attempts on goal.

It was Australia who pulled away this time with Rowie Webster scoring an amazing, no-look, round-the-back shot, leaving the Canadian defence helpless. For the first time in the game, the Stingers were in front and it was all thanks to their captain.

With two players excluded, Canada was up against it but Australia failed to take advantage, the score remaining 5-4.

Canada called a time-out with just 15 seconds to play and as has been the case so many times this tournament, it paid dividends, the Canadians drawing level just before half-time.

A goal-for-goal game

Canada started the second half how they started the first, taking the lead in the early stages of the first quarter, this time through Emma Wright.

If you thought the goal-for-goal style of this match was over, you were wrong, Bronwen Knox scoring her second of the match and making sure the Aussies stayed within one goal of leading this one.

For the second time of the match, Australia took the lead, Zoe Arancini finding the net for the second time.

It looked as though the Stingers had found their rhythm, passing it around with confidence in the second half which was leading to better openings and looks at goal.

The sides again traded goals but it was Canada who outscored the Aussies in the small period in the third term, bringing it back to 7-7.

Two minutes remained in the third quarter and it was all to play for for both sides.

With a minute to go and after a couple of spurned Aussie chances, Canada scored to go ahead in the cruelest way possible, Hannah Buckling getting a hand on a shot from Kyra Christmas, deflecting it past Yanitsas in net.

Arancini completed the hat-trick just before the end of the third as a Canadian exclusion gifted the Stingers a chance. Arancini was playing well, the number nine scoring three goals from four shots.

Float like a butterfly, sting like Zoe

Kyra Christmas couldn’t come early enough meaning the Aussies won the swim-off again. The Canadian defence stood up well, causing an Aussie turnover and launching an attack of their own.

The attack was snuffled out by Bronwen Knox and on the counter-attack, the Stingers drew an exclusion.

Australia took advantage and it was that woman again, Zoe Arancini netting her fourth of the game and putting the Aussies in front.

The reverse was the reality as an Australian exclusion lead to a Canadian goal. The game was becoming one of the most even of the entire tournament, neither side willing to give an inch.

As the pressure rose, so did the tension inside the pool, both side’s swarming the opposition offence at every opportunity to prevent a goal.

Arancini helped herself to a five-piece, shooting from long distance and putting the Stingers in front yet again, the score now 10-9 with just over three minutes to go.

Her opposing number nine levelled the scoring from a ridiculous angle, throwing it past Yanitsas and the threat of penalties had suddenly returned.

With a minute and a half to play, Bronte Halligan pulled off a miraculous steal and launched an Australian counter-attack. Keesja Gofers was brought down when through on goal but the foul was not given and with that, Canada regained possession and called a time-out.

Time got the better of both sides and at the full-time buzzer, the scores were locked at 10-10. It was time for penalties.

Stingers star in shootout

Goalkeepers Clare Wright and Lea Yanitsas took centre stage as five players from each team lined up to try and beat them and get their country over the line.

McKelvey took the first penalty for Canada, putting it past Yanitsas in the left hand corner.

Arancini’s shooting form continued into the shoot-out as she brought Australia level, the score now 11-11.

Kyra Christmas took Canada’s second penalty and it bounced off the crossbar, narrowly missing the chance to go 12-11 up.

Amy Ridge didn’t have the same trouble, the Aussies taking the one goal lead.

Canada made it 12-12 through number Axelle Crevier.

Hannah Buckling made it 3/3 from Australia as she fired it past Wright in goal.

Emma Wright, sister of Canadian keeper Clare Wright, failed to beat Yanitsas who pulled off a miraculous save, giving Australia a golden opportunity.

Keesja Gofers had the chance to win the game for Australia and win the game she did, the Aussies with a perfect record from the penalty spot.

It was a match that, truthfully, neither team deserved to lose, but the Stingers held their nerve and will go on to contest for fifth position later on in the week.

Women’s Water Polo Final Score (full-time):

Australia 10 (Arancini 5, Knox 2, Gofers, Webster, Ridge 1)

Canada 10 (E. Wright, Eggens, McKelvey, la Roche 2, Crevier, Christmas 1)

After Penalties:

Australia 14

Canada 12

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