5 Oct 2017

Diamonds edge Ferns in Constellation Cup opener

10:35 pm on 5 October 2017

The Australian Diamonds have gained revenge for their loss to the Silver Ferns earlier this month, battling to a 57-54 victory in the opening match of netball's Constellation Cup in Auckland on Thursday night.

New Zealand wing attack Gina Crampton.

New Zealand wing attack Gina Crampton. Photo: Photosport

Thumped by 10 goals in Invercargill on 3 September to hand New Zealand the Quad Series title, the visitors led by four goals at all three quarter breaks and held on as a near-capacity crowd at Spark Arena did their best to roar their side home.

The Janine Southby-coached Silver Ferns got within one in what was a tight and tense last 15 minutes but the Australian side never gave up the lead and held their nerve well to take a 1-0 advantage into the second match of the series in Christchurch on Sunday.

The visitors desire to redeem themselves from that comprehensive defeat in Invercargill was clear from the first centre-pass and after a fast and physical opening five minutes they established the first bit of daylight between the two teams.

Swarming defence eventually forced their hosts side into eight first quarter turnovers, while a 19-14 penalty count the Diamonds favour also helped as even a perfect 13 from 13 from Silver ferns shooters Baliey Mes and Maria Tutaia couldn't prevent their side from trailing by four at the end of the opening stanza.

Buoyed by their slick start, the Diamonds continued to force errors from the home team in the early stages of the second quarter, the addition of three rare missed shots by Tutaia allowing the margin to blow out to eight with four minutes remaining until halftime.

The New Zealand coach Southby had clearly seen enough at that point, making a double change as Kayla Cullen came in for Sam Sinclair in at wing defence and Temalisi Fakahokotau taking the place of Kelly Jury at goal keep.

The switches made an almost instant impact, the new pair inspiring a lift in level from the Ferns as they closed the gap back to four as the major break arrived following what had been a 12-12 second quarter.

The difference on the scoreboard had again not budged by the end of the third period, either, both teams going on small runs by neither able to maintain dominance in an encounter where plenty of feeling was evident.

Mes continued her perfect record on the night, getting to 18 from 18, but it was still Australia with the advantage going into what would be fast and furious final quarter.

With the volume inside the arena rising with every goal they scored or turnover they created, New Zealand looked as though they may ride the waves of support to a come-from-behind victory as they closed to 48-47 with eight minutes to play.

The reigning world champions werre not to be denied, though, staying patient with ball in hand and making sure they capitalised on the turnovers the Silver Ferns made as they pressed increasingly hard to steal the match in the dying stages.

The result meant that, despite their famous win in Invercargill, the Silver Ferns had lost four of their last five against the Diamonds and five of the six matches since the start of 2016.

Australia 57 New Zealand 54 (Quarter scores: Q1: 17-13. Q2: 29-25. Q3: 42-38).