The perfect run of the Tassie Tigers has crumbled in front of ecstatic fans on Saturday after Queensland Blades had quickly ripped up the script on the Gold Coast during an emphatic 9-3 home win.
The Queenslanders would reverse a four-goal loss just seven days earlier against the Tigers in Brisbane, securing one of the two prized spots in Sunday’s gold-medal final.
The upset result spoiled the Tasmanians’ dominant four-game winning streak – the longest of any of the state sides in this year’s Australian Hockey League campaign.
The Tigers were also the second men’s team to bow out in the finals after winning all three pool matches, following WA Thundersticks shock quarter-final exit on Thursday that ruined any chance of the two form rivals meeting to decide the title.
Despite the return of Kookaburras Eddie Ockenden and Jeremy Edwards to the Tassie lineup and the Blades losing spearhead Dylan Wotherspoon to suspension for the semi-final, the finals hosts were led to certain victory by Corey Weyer, Jake Whetton and veteran Matthew Swann.
Straight from the outset, Queensland had pressed the goals and hit the scoreboard.
In just the second minute of the knockout clash, Gold Coast hometown hero Weyer earned a penalty stroke and found the net with ease.
The Kookaburra then immediately showed off his ball handling through a conversion and a two-goal lead.
Joel Rintala scored the Blades’ third goal early in the second term, finding the gap from a penalty corner.
Less than a minute later, Jared Taylor got on the end of a counterstrike, pushing forward and slamming a congested shot home before adding the conversion into the net at chest height.
Down 5-0 early on, the stunned Tigers had tried to impose themselves on the game through veterans Eddie Ockenden and Tim Deavin.
But it was young gun Jack Welch who looked the most likely to bring his team back into the game on the back of impressive field running and intercept possessions.
Rintala goaled again in the second half after receiving an impressive assist from the baseline, his conversion clocking the scoreboard out to a 7-0 Blades’ lead.
Weyer soon after brought up his hat-trick from a penalty corner in the 48th minute with a powerful flick on goal.
Swann next fired a long shot in, which deflected into the path of Taylor, who sent the field goal past Tassie keeper Grant Woodcock.
Trailing 9-0 and with all hope now lost, Sam McCambridge went about restoring the Tigers’ pride in the 55th minute. He was able to weave through resolute Queensland defence to send a shot into the back of the board.
He followed up the one-on-one opportunity, smashing the ball through Blades keeper Matthew Flynn’s legs.
Welch forced his way into attack to blow past defenders just two minutes later to score a last consolation goal.
Tassie Van Demons in the meantime will be trying to avoid finishing last in the women’s competition after a 10-0 loss to WA Diamonds.
It was the Tasmanians’ fifth straight loss this year and the second by double figures.
The Van Demons were down 5-0 by half time and the story didn’t change in the second half despite creating some offensive pressure and goal-scoring chances.
The winless side is set to meet another when they face NT Pearls for seventh place, while the Tigers will push on for the bronze medal against Canberra Lakers on Sunday.