Resurgent Silver Ferns clinch third Test win
Anchored by standout performances at both ends of the court, the Silver Ferns reignited their longstanding rivalry with Australia after posting a compelling 55-44 win in the third Constellation Cup test in Hamilton on Sunday.
In sensational form, shooter Maria Folau (40 goals from 41 attempts) and defender Jane Watson proved inspiring figures, their exploits rubbing off on the rest of the team as the Silver Ferns led Australia at every break for the first time in a match since 2010. In the process, breaking a nine-game losing streak to the world number one side.
The Silver Ferns flew home, keeping Australia on the back foot and restricting them to just eight goals in the final term after the Diamonds had won the first two Tests heading into Hamilton. The fourth and final Test will be played in Wellington on Thursday.
The Silver Ferns retained the same starting seven as the previous Test, which included Folau lining up at goal shoot alongside Te Paea Selby-Rickit in the improving and promising in-circle partnership.
There were a few tweaks from Australia with Caitlin Thwaites and the inventive Gretel Tippett forming the shooting combination while former Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic player Jamie-Lee Price made her Diamonds debut at wing defence on a familiar court.
With Tippett a strong presence under the hoop and on attack, it was the Australians who broke the early deadlock, pushing out to a five-goal advantage before a powerful late surge handed the impetus back to the Silver Ferns.
The defensive hustle of captain Laura Langman, Samantha Sinclair, Katrina Grant and Watson provided more ball while an impressive Folau added the polish under the hoop. Six straight goals helped the Silver Ferns finish with a flourish as the home side took a slim 14-13 lead into the first break.
The response was swift from Australia with lofty captain Caitlin Bassett coming from the bench to take her place at goal shoot on the resumption.
The goal-for-goal start was split open by a rejuvenated Silver Ferns, the flow on attack, slick ball release and pin-point accuracy from Folau propelling the home side out to a five-goal lead.
With their confidence growing and transitional play on attack working seamlessly, a five-goal unanswered streak helped keep the Diamonds at bay as the Silver Ferns increased their lead at the halftime break to 30-26.
The Diamonds introduced the well-performed trio of Steph Wood (goal attack), Jo Weston (goal defence) and Gabi Simpson (wing defence) for a pulsating and intense third stanza.
Five straight goals pushed the Silver Ferns out to a seven-goal advantage as their movement on attack got better and better, Australia feeling the pressure after being in the unusual position of chasing the game.
The visitors threw everything at the Silver Ferns, defensively challenging every play, the home team holding their nerve and poise to set up a thrilling run home when leading 41-36 at the last turn.
Erikana Pedersen made her debut in the first quarter becoming Silver Fern #173.