Hockey: Australia claim 8th title in Malaysia

IPOH, Malaysia (AFP) - Australia triumphed in hockey's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Sunday, claiming their eighth title by smashing home team Malaysia 8-3.

Both teams are World Cup-bound, and this tournament signals their preparations for the event to be held from late May.

But there was no question that the Australians - defending champions and two-time World Cup winners - were far superior to all the other teams in this year's meet.

The world No.1 were in fiery form from the start in the final as they took a 3-1 first-half lead against the world No.13.

Chris Ciriello slammed in two penalty corners in the fifth and 17th minutes to set the pace. Eddie Ockenden was also on target in the 11th minute of the match, which often had the Malaysians backpedalling in defence.

Late in the first-half the Malaysians hit a purple patch, which saw them earn three penalty corners.

The effort in the 24th minute bore fruit with Shahril Saabah scoring from close range.

Malaysia, who have made it to four cup finals but never won, then started off the second-half strongly with a goal in the 40th minute through Rashid Baharom.

But Ciriello was on target for his hat-trick in the 42nd minute to keep his team in control. Nick Budgeon scored in the 46th minute before Ciriello hit home his fourth goal in the 53rd minute.

In the 65th minute Matt Gohdes scored the seventh goal, while Fitri Saari reduced the deficit with a field goal two minutes later.

Tristan White earned the final goal for the Australians in the 68th minute to cap their triumph.

Besides Australia and Malaysia, among this cup's teams, South Korea and South Africa have also qualified for the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.

South Korea grabbed the tournament's third spot on Sunday with Jang Jong Hyun's last gasp penalty corner conversion, which allowed them to edge out China 3-2.

He scored a brace in the match, and it was his second with just three seconds on the clock that allowed South Korea to take the match.

Earlier, Canada beat a fast tiring South African side 2-0 for fifth place. Canada, who were beaten 2-3 by the South Africans in the preliminary round match, were aided by the wasteful South African forward line.

For the first time this year, India and Pakistan did not participate in the annual event.

India had opted out saying that it will affect their World Cup preparations, while the Pakistanis cited lack of funds for declining the invitation.

Pakistan failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time ever and will also miss the Commonwealth Games later this year.

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