A slick Australia put paid to a Silver Ferns clean sweep with a stirring 59-53 win in the third Constellation Cup netball test in Christchurch on Sunday.
With an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and the Constellation Cup safely locked away, the Silver Ferns were keen to inflict further misery on the Diamonds but could not capitalise on another strong start in the face of a rejuvenated Australia.
The home side let a five-goal first quarter lead slip as Australia played a dominant hand through the second and third quarters with a superior attacking and defensive effort. Trailing by 12 heading down the home straight, the Silver Ferns fought back valiantly to trim the deficit as shooter Cathrine Latu was injected for her first appearance of the series. But it proved too little too late.
Playing her first test in five years, veteran shooter Jodi Brown slotted in as if she had never been away, combining seamlessly with Irene van Dyk as the Silver Ferns got away to another impressive start.
Composure on attack and precision timing helped the home team build a five-goal buffer as the Diamonds struggled to contain the fast-starting New Zealanders while also failing to find the tall figure of Caitlin Bassett under the hoop. An individual haul of 12 goals by Brown helped the Silver Ferns forge a 20-15 lead at the end of a high-scoring first quarter.
Acknowledging Brown’s influence, the Diamonds were quick to replace defender Bianca Chatfield with Rebecca Bulley, the Australians desperate not to go home empty-handed as their fortunes took a turn for the better on the resumption. Stiffening their defensive resolve where Bulley was instrumental in keeping Brown in check, Australia clicked into gear as the Silver Ferns intent fell away.
Quick and accurate ball to Bassett and the well-performed goal attack Natalie Medhurst, who missed just one goal all night, quickly gave the Diamonds the upper hand. The Silver Ferns were guilty of frittering possession away on attack as Australia got their noses in front and pushed on for 32-28 lead at the main break.
Anna Harrison replaced Leana de Bruin at goal defence for the second half but the Silver Ferns were constantly back-pedalling, disjointed on attack and beset by handling problems and a lack of accuracy, all the momentum squarely resting with Australia.
There was no easy path to goal for the Silver Ferns, staunch defensive work paying dividends for Australia while at the other end, a dominant Bassett and Medhurst continued to rattle in the goals. In catch-up mode, the Silver Ferns could not halt a rampant Australia, who marched imperiously to a healthy 47-35 lead at the last break.
Individual standout of the first two tests, Silver Ferns goal attack Maria Tutaia was ruled out of the third showdown with a knee injury, opening the door for Brown to reignite her international career.
Coming back from a knee injury, captain Casey Williams was again left on the bench while rising young Northern Mystics defender Kayla Cullen took over the wing defence’s bib from Harrison in the Silver Ferns starting line-up.
The influential quartet of Bassett (goal shoot), Madison Browne (wing attack), Kimberlee Green (centre) and Renae Hallinan (wing defence) who inspired a dramatic second half comeback in the second test before falling just short in the one-goal loss were all rewarded with starts for the Diamonds tonight.
Missing inspiring defender Julie Corletto, who returned home earlier in the week to undergo knee surgery, the Diamonds also opted to start without captain Natalie von Bertouch.
Popular competitions and giveaways from Gimme.co.nz: NZ's People Powered Guide to Free Stuff. Links will open on Gimme.
Join Voxy on Google+.