The Australian Diamonds have held their dominance on the netball court defeating The New Zealand Silver Ferns 49-40 in Melbourne’s Hisense Arena.
As the countdown to the 2015 Netball World Championships begins, the Diamonds are looking confident in both their performance and preparation. Their win on Wednesday evening became their 15th consecutive and their 17th in succession against the number two world ranked Kiwi team. The Diamonds further extended their longest winning streak since 2001-03, a golden period in which they also reigned as the world and Commonwealth champions.
While the second test result at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena all but sealed the Diamonds’ defence of the four-game Constellation Cup, it also breathed new life into a rivalry that had become unusually one-sided in recent times.
The final margin was comfortable enough, but the gap was only two goals with 11 minutes to play. After a questionable start, Australia’s trans-Tasmin rivals won the second quarter and competed fiercely in the last. Shooter Cathrine Latu finished with 25 goals and no misses, but leading Australian goal shooter Caitlin Bassett again led all scorers with 33 from 40 attempts. The 192cm tall shooter from WA earned MVP, after 44 goals in game one.
Having not lost a match at home in two years, Australia will continue the series in Sydney on Saturday night with a 2-0 lead, having swept the opening match in Invercargill 59-42 a week ago – two months after a triumphant 18-goal result in the gold medal game in Glasgow.
Ferns captain Casey Kopua, meanwhile, hailed a much improved performance, despite a scratchy start.
The absence of injured shooter Maria Tutaia continues to be felt in New Zealand. Her replacement, Bailey Mes, was benched at quarter-time for Australian recruit Ameliaranne Wells.
The Queenslander with a Kiwi father was a surprise selection in the 12-strong squad of a country where she has never lived, but she was also a reasonable contributor on debut. Her injection added speed and power to a Ferns front line that had been hesitant and lacking in cohesion against the committed defence of Laura Geitz and Julie Corletto.
Australian veteran Kim Green replaced Kim Ravaillion at centre, while Melbourne Vixens’ premiership goal attack Tegan Caldwell came on for Nat Medhurst for her first international minutes on home soil, immediately marking her place by scoring three goals and assisting Bassett with the next.
In less than seven minutes, the margin had increased to 10, the Diamonds’ dominance pronounced.
But still the Ferns were not done, with Kopua moving out to goal defence at the half and Leana de Bruin closing down the spaces in Goal Keeper. Fellow substitute Liana Leota added some life at wing attack as the visitors drew back to 35-37 before Australia rallied once more.
An Australian win in Sydney next week will secure the Constellation Cup for the world’s number one-ranked team. – Kayla Burke
Top screenshot from The Australian Diamonds Official Facebook page.