The Australian Diamonds have completed a clean sweep of the Constellation Cup series against New Zealand after winning a thrilling fourth and final Test at The Trust Arena in Auckland tonight.
The Diamonds were forced to dig deep in the final term to overrun an inspired Silver Ferns combination and claim a 51-47 victory. In doing so they stretched their winning streak against New Zealand to nine matches – one off equaling their all-time best record against their arch rivals.
It’s the first time since the Constellation Cup was introduced to Test matches between Australia and New Zealand in 2010 that one country has swept the series.
After trailing by five goals early in the last term, the Diamonds were inspired by some great defensive efforts from Sharni Layton which were capitalised on by Caitlin Bassett and Natalie Medhurst in the goal circle.
It was the closest match between the two countries since Australia started its winning streak – in Auckland in September last year.
“We certainly had to dig deep and you’d expect nothing less from the Silver Ferns to come out and challenge us,” Medhurst said.
“It (last quarter) was about playing each ball and picking up our defensive intensity which we did and Sharni pulled in the balls that we needed.”
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander started with a different combination for the first time in the series, giving shooter Caitlin Thwaites her first taste of court time this series, Tegan Caldwell at goal attack and Kimberlee Green began the match at centre.
It was Thwaites’ first appearance in the green and gold since she took to the court in the final term of Australia’s last pool match against South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in July.
The Silver Ferns’ pressure on Australia’s ball movement saw the Diamonds make uncharacteristic errors but Thwaites’ shooting gave the visitors the slight advantage at the break.
The start of the second term saw Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu hand young defender Temalisi Fakahokotau her international debut with the 20-year-old replacing Leana de Bruin at goal keeper and she was straight into the fray, trying to curtail Thwaites’ shooting accuracy.
The Silver Ferns continued to play inspired netball, pulling off seven intercepts for the half as they went into half-time leading for the first time at any break in the series 22-21.
Alexander replaced Thwaites and Caldwell in goals with the combination of Bassett and Medhurst to start the second half, while Kim Ravaillion came into centre for Green as the Diamonds looked to wrestle back the ascendancy.
The Diamonds’ line-up underwent another change early in the third term when captain Laura Geitz left the court for treatment on her left knee and was replaced at goal keeper by Layton.
But the momentum stayed with New Zealand as the Silver Ferns edged out to the biggest lead of the game, four goals, mid-way through the term and they maintained that advantage 38-34 heading into the last quarter.
After the lead stretched to five goals, a 4-0 run by the Diamonds cut the margin to just one and then they levelled the scores at 41-all.
Again the Silver Ferns pulled away but the Diamonds continued to respond with Layton pulling off some crucial passages of play to get Australia the lead for the first time since early in the second term and they were able to maintain that lead through to the final whistle.
The Diamonds now return to Australia to prepare for two Tests against England in the Real Insurance Netball Test Series at Bendigo (19 October, 2.15pm) and the AIS Arena in Canberra (October 22, 7.15pm).
|Coach ALEXANDER Lisa|
|de BRUIN Leana||GK||-/GK|
|Coach TAUMAUNU Waimarama|