Opening Constellation Cup loss for Silver Ferns
A strong start and finish could not prevent the Silver Ferns from slipping to a 57-42 loss in the opening clash of the four Test Constellation Cup in Brisbane on Sunday.
With coach Noeline Taurua continuing to provide opportunities, there were some new faces introduced for the Silver Ferns against Australia.
While a drawn first quarter provided plenty of positives, the Silver Ferns lost ground during the middle two terms before coming home strongly to win the last quarter.
After two cameo appearances in her short Silver Ferns career, teenaged shooter Aliyah Dunn was handed her first start in the most testing of conditions while Michaela Sokolich-Beatson got the nod at wing defence.
In a poignant moment, defender Sulu Fitzpatrick made her return to the Silver Ferns during the third quarter, seven years after gaining her solitary Test cap in 2011.
Defensively, the Silver Ferns provided plenty of impetus, the exploits of Jane Watson and Katrina Grant, who grabbed a game-high four intercepts, being particularly impressive while Sokolich-Beatson and Samantha Sinclair also added spark.
In the final quarter, the experienced pairing of Maria Folau, at goal shoot, and Te Paea Selby-Rickit in the circle, provided more efficiency and accuracy on attack as the Silver Ferns competed effectively.
There was plenty of passion shown by both teams in a low-scoring opening stanza which had a bit of everything. At four goals apiece, just eight goals were scored in the first eight minutes, staunch defence creating a flurry of turnover opportunities.
There was none better than the Silver Ferns in-circle defensive pairing of Grant and Watson, who put the heat on Australia’s shooters while getting their hands on plenty of ball.
Effective hustle each way meant both teams struggled to retain possession which was reflected in the 10-all scoreline at the first break.
A quick four goals on the resumption helped the momentum swing Australia’s way, slick play from goal attack Steph Wood and constant pressure from wing defence Gabi Simpson paying dividends.
With livewire midcourter Sinclair taking over from Sokolich-Beatson midway through, the Silver Ferns had their moments but a lack of accuracy continued to plague the visitors. Maia Wilson came on for Dunn in the closing minutes before halftime as the Diamonds stretched out to a 24-16 lead.
The Silver Ferns were kept on the back foot during the third stanza, wholesale changes doing little to diminish Australia’s growing confidence. The Diamonds’ transition through court was delivered in seamless fashion while the Silver Ferns faced a relentless defensive challenge.
Making her entrance late in the third quarter, it was a challenging return for Fitzpatrick, the Silver Ferns forced to work hard to keep their opponents in check as Australia bounced out to 44-27 lead at the last break.
Townsville will host its first ever netball Test when the teams meet in the north Queensland city for the second test on Wednesday.