NAOMI Evans scored a last-minute winner to ensure the Hockeyroos, featuring Gerringong’s Grace Stewart, qualified for Sunday’s Four Nations final with a perfect record after a 2-1 win over the United States in Ibaraki on Saturday.
Goulburn product Evans, playing just her third game for Australia, calmly slotted the winner with 34 seconds left after Savannah Fitzpatrick’s central pass.
Barely 60 seconds earlier, US’s Taylor West had equalised Georgina Morgan’s 23rd minute drag flick.
Australia simply needed to avoid a three-goal defeat to book their spot in Sunday’s final, against either Japan or Korea who play on Saturday afternoon, but will be full of confidence after a third win in the Four Nations.
The Hockeyroos dominated the key statistics, with 36-19 circle entries, 14-6 shots and 5-2 penalty corners, but coach Paul Gaudoin wasn’t content with the performance.
"I don't think we played as well as we would've liked. It was pleasing to find a way to win in the end,” he said.
"We know we have to be better to win a final tomorrow. We will have to be significantly better."
Grace Stewart came close to opening the scoring in the first quarter after Hayley Padget’s scuffed shot almost found her unmarked at the far post.
Morgan put Australia ahead halfway through the second period with a trademark finish from a penalty corner.
US’s Tara Vitesse kept Australia’s defence on their toes before half-time with a reverse stick shot which went wide.
The Hockeyroos won a handful of penalty corners in the third, with Morgan unable to add to her tally before Savannah Fitzpatrick’s shot was almost swept home by Stewart in the 44th minute.
Renee Taylor went on an enterprising 49th minute, beating two defenders before shooting over.
Australia seemed destined for the win until Lauren Moyer’s cutback from the baseline was expertly deflected home by West.
The Hockeyroos weren’t content with the draw, despite it being enough to clinch a spot in Sunday’s final, with 25-year-old Evans showing composure to slot the winner.
Australia will learn their final opponent later on Saturday, with Japan simply needing to avoid a two-goal defeat against Korea to progress.