Silver Ferns drop Constellation Cup decider
The Silver Ferns hopes of making a late bid for the Constellation Cup were dashed when Australia took out the deciding fourth Test with a 58-47 win in Wellington on Thursday.
After dropping the third Test to the Silver Ferns by 11 goals in Hamilton on Sunday, it was a highly-motivated Australia who turned up for the decider, which the Silver Ferns needed to win by 14 to secure the silverware.
The Silver Ferns were largely on the back foot throughout the lively and bruising clash, but it provided coach Noeline Taurua the opportunity to give 10 of her squad game time in the final international of the season.
Showing the ease of her transfer from club to international netball, Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman delivered her usual spirited performance with a wholehearted and enthusiastic outing.
A more consistent Australia held the edge over the New Zealanders throughout but the Silver Ferns showed plenty of spirit to fight back, several times, from large deficits to stay in the contest as their build towards next year’s World Cup continues.
Continuing to grow in confidence and build on regular partnerships, the Silver Ferns retained the same starting seven for a third successive Test while there were a couple of tweaks to Australia’s make-up.
Maria Folau continued her recently-adopted presence in the goal shoot position for the Silver Ferns while the Diamonds gave starts to playmaking goal attack Gretel Tippett and rising young wing attack Kelsey Browne.
The growing combination between Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit showed plenty of early enterprise to absorb the opening onslaught and help keep the Silver Ferns level-pegging with Australia. Plenty of patience was required from the home side in the face of a smothering and lively defensive effort from the Diamonds.
At the other end, the twin shooting towers of Tippett and captain Caitlin Bassett provided a rock-solid platform as Australia hit the first break with a handy 18-13 lead.
Proceedings took a lift in intensity on the resumption, Australia piling on the pressure on the back of a torrid defensive effort. That was backed up by slick through-court transition with the Diamonds threatening to break loose when pushing out to a 13-goal lead.
The fresh legs of Sulu Fitzpatrick, replacing Jane Watson at goalkeeper, coincided with a Silver Ferns revival in an increasingly physical contest. Getting their hands on more turnover opportunities, the Silver Ferns chipped away at the deficit, the ever-effective Watson returning to the court at goal defence just ahead of the main break.
However, it was Australia who maintained overall control when leading 32-24 at halftime.
It was more of the same during a willing third stanza with little respite for the Silver Ferns who struggled to break the shackles of Australia’s tightening grip. Well-drilled and accurate on attack, while backed up by a productive defensive attitude offered Australia plenty of chances.
Denied the same opportunities, the Silver Ferns fell behind in the possession stakes while battling to contain Australia’s menace under the hoop. Teenaged shooter Aliyah Dunn joined the match early in the third stanza for the Silver Ferns but it was Australia who took an imposing 46-33 lead into the last break.