WPWL 2011: China men book trip to Florence while New Zealanders hit top form

World League

Sydney (May 19). China men came through when necessary, beating Japan 8-6 to advance to the FINA World League Super Finals following fourth-night action in the second leg of the Asia-Oceania qualifying water polo event at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. And New Zealand came out to play as well with two excellent matches that kept the opposition apprehensive until the final quarters.

But China men, under pressure to join their female counterparts and qualify, were up against a Japanese team riding a high of top-class play and an easier final day against New Zealand compared to China’s opponent of unbeaten Australia.

However, China made Japan play catch-up all game and kept Japan off-guard, defending well and thwarting some excellent Japanese attacks. At times Japan failed to finish off what seemed to be easy chances and key players did not perform.

Tightly fought at 5-4 early in the third period, the game was on a knife’s edge until the final two minutes of the quarter. Then China struck with TAN Feihu blistering in a shot from eight metres and then LIANG Zhonxing stealing and countering for an undefended goal for 7-4 heading to the final quarter. Shota HAZUI and Akira YANASE from centre forward brought it to within one but TAN rifled in his fourth inside the final four minutes and both team shut up shop.

While that started the night, New Zealand turned out in fine form with the men scoring 12 goals before losing to Asian Games champion Kazakhstan 17-12. New Zealand had the better of the ejections but had experienced star Lachie TIJSEN ejected in the second quarter while managing to get Kazakhstan’s Alexey SHMIDER and Alexandr FENOCHKO turfed in the fourth.

New Zealand trailed 8-3 at halftime but threw in a withering 6-4 winning third period and brought to game to with one (12-11) with an Eamon LUI penalty goal a minute into the final period. Kazakhstan drew on its stronger experience and hammered in five unanswered goals with the Kiwis gaining a consolation in the final seconds.

The New Zealand women were in equally splendid form, playing with traditional Trans-Tasman spirit that comes to the fore in any sport between the two close neighbours. The world No 2 Aussie Stingers controlled the first quarter 2-0 but four different Kiwis had their name on the scoresheet by halftime after winning the second period 4-3 and make Australia stand up.

Rowena Webster kept Australia in the game with a hat-trick of goals from the top and the penalty line in just over a minute. Australia played calmly and took the margin to 8-4 and then 9-5 by the last break. New Zealand can be proud of its 1-1 final-quarter and 10-6 score against one of the world’s best teams.

In the non-competition clash, Japan succumbed to the Australian 20 & Under team 12-7. Senior international Zoe Arancini, concentrating on winning the world junior title this year, scored three goals.

The big match-up tomorrow night will be Australia versus world No 3 China to decide which women’s team will take top ranking into next month’s Super Final in Tianjin, China.

Match reports

Quarters: 1-1, 3-2, 3-1, 1-2

CHINA:  GE Weiqing, TAN Feihu (4), LIANG Zhongxing (3), YU Lijun, GUO Junliang, PAN Ning, LI Bin, WANG Yang, XIE Junmin, LI Li, LIANG NIANXIANG, DONG Tianyi, ZHANG Chufeng (1). Head Coach: CAI Tianxiong.

JAPAN: Katsuyuki TANAMURA, Kan AOYAGI (1), Koji TAKEI, Shota HAZUI (1), Mitsuaki SHIGA, Akira YANASE (2), Yusuke SHIMIZU (1), Atsushi NAGANUMA (1), Kan IREI, Yoshinori SHIOTA, Keigo OKAWA, Satoshi NAGATA, Naoki SHIMIZU. Head Coach: Hideki TAKAGI.

Quarters:  4-2, 4-1, 4-6, 5-3

KAZAKHSTAN: Alexandr SHVEDOV, Alexey SHMIDER (1), Azamal ZHULUMBETOV (2), Roman PILIPENKO (3), Murat SHAKENOV (1), Alexandr FENOCHKO (2), Anvar SHAKENOV (1), Rustam UKMANOV (1), Evgeniy ZHILAYEV, Mikhail RUDAY (5), Ravil MANAFOV, Nikita KOKORIN (1), Alexey DEMCHENKO. Head Coach: Sergey DROZDOV.

NEW ZEALAND: Scott GRAHAM, Hunter De GROOT (2), Scott TAYLOR (2), James DAVIDSON, Alex MacKENZIE (1), Conor LUI (1), Dan JACKSON (1), Matt REID (1), Eamon LUI (2), Scott GRIFFITHS, Lachie TIJSEN, Jamie CAMERON (2). Head Coach: Kurt GOLDSWORTHY.

Quarters:   2-0, 3-4, 4-1, 1-1,

AUSTRALIA: Victoria BROWN, Holly LINCOLN-SMITH (1), Sophie SMITH, Rebecca RIPPON (1), Jane MORAN, Bronwen KNOX (2), Rowena WEBSTER (4), Patrice O’NEILL, Keesja GOFERS, Melissa RIPPON, Nicola ZAGAME (2), Lea BARTA. Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.

NEW ZEALAND: Gabrielle CROTHALL, Emily COX, Kelly MASON (2), Danielle LEWIS (2), Amy LOGAN, Nicole LEWIS, Ashley SMALLFIELD, Alex BOYD, Johanna THEELEN, Casie BOWRY (3), Kirsten HUDSON, Jasmine MYLES, Brooke MILLAR. Head Coach: Eelco URI.