The Aussie Sharks have scored a massive 12-9 upset of 2012 Olympic water polo gold medallists Croatia in the Aquatic Super Series at Perth’s Challenge Stadium.
Saturday’s win goes down as one of the best in recent Australian men’s water polo history and is sweet revenge for an Aussie Sharks side on the rise.
The two teams last played in the quarter-finals of last year’s World Championships in Barcelona where the Croatians came from behind in the last quarter to send the game into two extra-time periods that they won 2-1.
It was a heartbreaking end for the Australians and they finished the tournament eighth, while Croatia won the bronze medal.
That result was preceded by a 7-5 defeat in last year’s Aquatic Super Series and an 11-6 loss in the group stage at the London Games.
On Saturday night, a thrilling game was dominated by heavy defence and a prolific major foul and subsequent extra-man advantage count at both ends of the pool.
The Sharks, coached by former Croatian assistant Elvis Fatovic, made a blazing start, scoring the first three goals – a pair to Richie Campbell and one to Billy Miller – to lead 3-0 before Croatia struck back with two in succession to trail by one at the first break.
The second period belonged to the Olympic champions with Croatia applying intense pressure and scoring two goals to Jarrod Gilchrist’s solitary addition for the Australians and, at halftime, it was 4-4.
Campbell and Miller were at it again to open the third term with two straight Sharks’ goals before the teams traded a pair of strikes each – Australia’s to Tyler Martin and hometown hero Aaron Younger – giving the hosts four extra-man goals for the quarter and an 8-6 advantage going into the final stanza.
Younger nailed two, Campbell his fourth and Johnno Cotterill his first allowing the Australians to claim a memorable 12-9 victory.