At the International Convention Centre, Cape Town; Australia 56 (Dear Koenen: 33/34, Steph Wood: 23/28). Silver Ferns 50 (Gratia Nweke: 39/45, Ameliaranne Ekenasio: 11/11) 1Q: 15-19; HT: 30-31; 3Q; 44-40.
A crushing third-quarter error saw the Silver Ferns’ Quad Series title hopes slip away.
Australia made it seven Quad Series triumphs from eight tournaments, prevailing in the second half of the Ferns to take the title with 56-50 in Cape Town on Thursday (NZ time).
The Diamonds continued their recent dominance against the Ferns, winning their last four matches to lift next year’s Constellation Cup.
Australia will take the favorites tag in the July-August World Cup, which will also be contested in Cape Town, but the Ferns will know they are not too far behind the classy Diamonds.
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The Diamond Ferns pulled away after halftime, winning the second half 26-19 after New Zealand had led 31-30 in the main.
There were funny scenes with seven minutes left in the final quarter with the Ferns trailing 51-45. Ameliaranne Ekenasio netted the goal, but the referees were distracted by a physical challenge between Grace Nweke and Australian Courtney Bruce under the hoop and missed the goal.
Because they didn’t see the goal, the foul didn’t count, and they went to the next possession with a toss.
This second match was fiercely contested between these great rivals and it would not be surprising to see them on the same court in the World Cup final on August 6.
Australia were well served by a balanced end of attack with goals set up by both shooters. Goal shooter Cara Koenen was outstanding with 33 from 34, while goaltending Steph Wood had another standout showing, 23 from 28 port.
At times, New Zealand relied too much on shooting star Nweke, who copped plenty of defensive attention throughout the game.
The Ferns clung to a 31-30 half-time lead, but it was Australia who started the half more closely.
Eventually, the Ferns were able to capitalize on some offensive mistakes and capitalize on those turnovers to take the lead.
Australia began the second half with a critical 10-3 run, opening up a four-goal buffer (40-34), their largest lead of the game to that point. The Diamonds would score five goals in a game-changing stretch of the game.
It was a rough patch of netball from the Ferns, who battled for the ball in Nweke with Australia to produce scrums through the court defense and forcing errors.
New Zealand were restricted to just nine goals in the third quarter, committing seven turnovers in the end, which shut them out.
Coach Dame Noeline Taurua showed faith in her players by refusing to go to the bench, even as Australia rose in the third quarter and began to take control.
The sides traded goals back and forth, for most of the first half both sides were slippery in attack and defensive turnovers became more difficult.
New Zealand finished the term strongly with a mini run to head into the first quarter break with a confident 19-15 lead.
Australian defenders Sarah Klau and Bruce Bruce had few answers to Nweke’s early on, getting the better of them 17 from 19 in the first 15 minutes.
Nweke was the best option at the end of the shooting for Ferns with Shepherds looking to her even when she was doubled by Klau and Bruce.
It was slippery to attack the net in the first half with just one interception each side by Ash Brazill (Australia) and Karin Burger for the Ferns.
In the third and fourth playoffs, England prevailed over South Africa 49-42.
The best in the court
Koenen was very good in attacking the Diamonds end, however Wood she had another fine game and maybe just the best goal attack in the world of netball. She hurt the Ferns in their round of games and was again able to sink 23 goals as a passer and shooter.
A big moment
Immediately after halftime. The Ferns came out sluggish to start the third quarter with Australia going on a 10-3 run and scoring five goals in a row. Any team that does it against the world’s best Diamonds will find it a challenge to win.
Match rating: 7/10
This was a typical trans-Tasman bang that ebbs and flows most of the way, but not quite the classic that we sometimes get. If these sides meet again in the World Cup final on September 6th, let no one move.
Australia will head to the July-August World Cup as firm favourites, holding the Quad Series title, Commonwealth Games Gold, and the Constellation Cup. The Ferns have lost four straight to their fiercest rivals and are doing a lot of work ahead of the World Cup to close that gap.