20 Jan 2019

Silver Ferns fall short to Australia

11:54 am on 20 January 2019

A New Zealand fightback wasn't enough to beat an understrength Australian Diamonds outfit in a 53-50 loss at London's Netball Quad Series.

Silver Ferns goal shooter Maria Folau

Silver Ferns goal shooter Maria Folau Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Signs looked ominous in the but the Silver Ferns recovered from a tentative opening, recovering from an eight-goal deficit after the first spell to draw the second and win the third and fourth quarters.

The Silver Ferns faced a torrid opening quarter onslaught from Australia, the Diamonds quickly into their stride with a slick showing at both ends of the court. Convincing with their speedy through-court transition, defensive suffocation and finishing pushed Australia out to a 14-6 lead at the first break.

Struggling with their ball placement and execution on attack, captain Langman, in her 150th Test for the Silver Ferns, moved into centre on the resumption with the robust Burger coming off the bench into wing defence.

"They were defeinitely out to hit us hard really early and give us a bit of a shake up and we tried to prep for it but it's still a surprise sometimes," says Silver Ferns goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

"We're continually trying to do things in our warm up because we know those massive hits are going to come, we just need to absorb it immediately."

The changes had immediate impact with Langman providing extra punch and drive on attack while Burger helped tighten the defensive screws, the Diamonds placed under greater pressure in moving the ball forward.

The connection between the mobile Silver Ferns shooting duo of Folau and Ekenasio clicked up another notch as the pair found their rhythm and rapport under the hoop.

There was also a big lift at the defensive end, with Kopua, back in the Silver Ferns after a three-year absence, giving glimpses of her vintage best in tandem with Jane Watson as the New Zealanders matched Australia all the way in a drawn second stanza.

The Diamonds kept their eight-goal advantage when leading 27-19 at the main break.

With Kopua and Burger featuring prominently, the Silver Ferns made a blistering start to the third quarter as the pair helped add to a growing number of defensive gains. Revelling in more fluency and accuracy across all facets, the Silver Ferns turned up the heat on Australia.

With the Silver Ferns closing to within three, Australia switched their goal attacks, the athletic Gretel Tippett coming on to replace Steph Wood. The Diamonds weathered the lift in intensity from the Silver Ferns to take a 39-33 lead into the last break.

Far from done, the Silver Ferns continued to push, making a confident start in the run home when twice closing the gap to just two goals, Australia hanging on for a gritty win on the back of a fine 31 shots from on-court captain Caitlin Thwaites.

"I saw a lot in the last combination and the chemistry was probably the best it's ever been so I'm pleased with that," says Silver Ferns coach Noeline.

"I'm really disappointed I still feel we're behind both England and Australia and the issues that we have are sustaining the intensity so we have a l ot of work to do."

"There have been improvements but we have to lick our wounds and keep moving."

Seasoned campaigners Laura Langman, Maria Folau and Casey Kopua delivered telling performances while Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Karin Burger chipped in with vital contributions as the Silver Ferns showed improving signs on the road to July's Netball World Cup.

The Silver Ferns will meet the South Africa Proteas in their final match of the Netball Quad Series tomorrow morning.