An unlucky Silver Ferns conceded the Constellation Cup 4-1 after being undone 50-49 by a late-charging Australia in the series finale in Canberra on Sunday.
With the lead changing hands numerous times throughout, the Silver Ferns gave their best showing of the three-test Australian leg of the series with a much-improved and spirited outing.
With the scores all tied up after the third quarter, the Silver Ferns held the edge throughout a thrilling final stanza when ahead by as much as four goals at one stage. Costly turnovers helped Australia level up with a minute to go before they nailed the crucial winner with just seconds remaining.
There was, however, plenty to be encouraged about looking ahead for the Silver Ferns with a new-look attack line continuing to show promising signs and adding variety and depth with next year’s Commonwealth Games in mind. The defence line also collectively put in their best effort of the series, Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin providing a wealth of turnover ball.
Backing up from the fourth test, Cathrine Latu was again given the nod at goal shoot ahead of Irene van Dyk while the Silver Ferns also welcomed back de Bruin from injury. The defender took over the goalkeeper’s bib from Katrina Grant while rookie Shannon Francois got her second consecutive start at wing attack.
Goal shoot Caitlin Thwaites got her first taste of action during this series to make the Diamonds starting seven in Canberra while Madison Browne got a start at centre with Kim Green at wing attack.
The Silver Ferns dominated the early exchanges, showing improved links and accuracy on attack while the Diamonds were prone to error as their new-look front line settled. Captain Kopua and her defensive partners de Bruin and Joline Henry got their hands on more turnover ball which helped the through court driving on attack.
With Thwaites revelling in just her second start for Australia, the Diamonds came back strongly, the shooter making an excellent start with her accuracy and court craft under the hoop as she slotted 11 first quarter goals.
Pegging back the Silver Ferns early domination, it was the Diamonds who headed to the first break with a 13-10 lead.
The Silver Ferns produced an excellent second stanza, turning around the three-goal deficit to lead by six at the main break. Kopua and de Bruin continued to present a solid defensive wall as they limited the Diamonds’ shooting options while at the other end the Latu/Maria Tutaia partnership showed real value.
The link between centre Laura Langman and Latu showed encouraging signs with the shooter mixing up her movement and positioning with positive results. Tutaia’s radar found its range in style, the elegant shooter converting 10 goals during the quarter from all points of the circle to give the Silver Ferns a 26-23 halftime lead.
The Diamonds took remedial action for the second half, the towering figure of Caitlin Bassett replacing Thwaites with immediate effect. The home team scored the first six goals to reclaim the lead before a real arm wrestle played out for the remainder of the stanza.
Kopua and de Bruin again provided plenty of turnover ball to ignite a spirited fight-back from the visitors, the Silver Ferns finding plenty of flow and slick transition through court to bounce back in style.Latu and Tutaia provided the finishing as the Silver Ferns pegged back the deficit, the teams unable to be separated at the last break, the 38-all scoreline promising an exciting run home.