It was a tough win for the Australia Diamonds with the New Zealand Silver Ferns saving their best till last.It was a 51-47 victory for the Diamonds having trailed the Silver Ferns for most of the game. It was the Diamonds strength, composure and speed that helped them claim the win in Auckland last night.
All the momentum was in the Ferns’ court heading into the final quarter, leading by four goals, all they had to do was keep their heads up and control the ball to secure the win. However, with nine minutes remaining, the Diamonds fought back and drew level. The world number two team blew their chance at winning, conceding the first clean sweep in the four-year history of the Constellation Cup.
Just as they have in the past nine tests against the Ferns, Australia proved their superiority. Without injured stars Casey Kopua, Maria Tutaia and retired veteran Irene Van Dyk, this is a rebuilding phase for the Ferns, however with just 10 months before next year’s World Cup, time is quickly running out.
Shooter Bailey Mes struggled in the beginning, missing five shots in the opening quarter alone. Mes however didn’t lose the plot and kept putting up shots to finish with 22/33.
Those frequently missed chances forced goal attack Jodi Brown (25/31) to clean up the scraps. New Zealand’s mid court forced several errors on the Australian squad, in turn creating many turnovers, allowing the Silver Ferns to keep their lead for most of the game.
At the defensive end, Leana de Bruin and Katrina Grant did their best to fill Kopua’s significant absence by applying much needed pressure to Australian shooters Tegan Caldwell and Caitlin Thwaites. Caldwell had difficulty overcoming the tall Ferns defenders and was replaced at half time by Natalie Medhurst.
New comer Temalisi Fakahokotau was injected into defence to make her first test debut in the second quarter, and the 20-year-old made an immediate impression on her home court. Fakahokotau tipped one deflection and took two intercepts from Thwaits’ reach. Her aggression helped the Ferns regain confidence to take a surprising one goal lead into half time with the help of some unusual errors from the Australian mid court.
After the break Fakahokotau held her own marking Caitlin Bassett and, at one point, copped a stern warning from umpire Jackie Mizon which only served to make a serious impact for the two quarters she was on the court. – Kayla Burke
Top photo from the Australian Netball Diamonds’ official Facebook page