Australia beat their neighbours New Zealand by 15 goals and South Africa overcame the United Kingdom by 18 goals to 15 on the first day of play at the Quadrangular Tournament in New South Wales, Australia. Australia were widely expected to win against New Zealand (and are indeed expected to win the tournament overall) while the UK versus South Africa match was always expected to be close. The two sides had not faced each other in a mixed team competition in years and the closeness of the result suggests that the test match series between the two countries, being held in the UK in July, will be a very exciting encounter.
The structure of the competition means that no country is out of contention yet but both the UK and New Zealand have a big task in front of them as they would have to win both their remaining matches to finish in the top two. Each country plays every other country and then the top two sides on points play off and so do the third and fourth places.
The UK’s task is probably the most daunting as it means they have to overcome the double world champions Australia today, who have beaten them five times in the last two years; three times pretty comfortably and twice just by 4 goals. The match will also see UK player Jason Webb play against the country of his birth for the first time and against his own brother in law, Will Weston, the Australian captain. Jason could get a hot reception from the Australian crowd, as could the UK’s coach, Ross Turnbull, who is another Australian.
South Africa take on New Zealand, knowing that a victory might well guarantee them a top two finish. The two sides played each other twice at the last World Cup in 2007 and emerged with one victory a piece. New Zealand beat South Africa in their pool match but in the 3rd/ 4th play off when it really counted it was South Africa who took home the glory.