The Australian Diamonds have taken a huge step forward to being the first country engraved on the Constellation Cup with a 48-43 goal win against the New Zealand Silver Ferns in Adelaide.
With the magnificent trans-Tasman trophy on the line at the end of the three-match series the Diamonds and Ferns didn’t disappoint the 8,000 strong crowd putting on a thrilling and physical netball display.
With Diamonds coach Norma Plummer opting for the speedy shooting combination of Natalie Medhurst and Sharelle McMahon the Diamonds looked formidable in the goal circle but it was New Zealand’s tall timbre Irene van Dyk who opened the scoring with the first three goals.
A Natalie von Bertouch intercept helped the Diamonds get on the board with McMahon capitalizing on the centre’s turnover.
With Ferns goal attack Maria Tutaia beginning to have more of an impact on the game the New Zealanders soon jumped to a four goal lead.
While van Dyk was getting the better of keeper Laura Geitz at the post, goal defence Mo’onia Gerrard was helping to turn the ball over rejecting the giant goal shooter’s shots on two occasions.
With Gerrard continuing to dictate play in the back-end, the Diamonds narrowed the gap to one only for the Ferns to reply immediately.
A Diamond turnover in the final minutes allowed the Australians to close the gap, with a 12-all score line at the first break.
The Diamonds opening goal of the second term gave the Australians the lead for the first time in the match with consecutive Medhurst goals giving them a two goal buffer. However two quick goals by van Dyk and Tutaia locked the scores once again.
Scrappy play by both teams meant neither team could get an edge, the deadlock was finally broken by the Diamonds captain, with McMahon giving the Australians the slightest of leads once again.
A second goal by teammate Medhurst, signaled an injury time called by the Ferns with the break the first time in international netball that coaches have been allowed to coach during injury time.
Medhurst was once again on fire after the break giving the Diamonds their largest lead yet, three goals, and with Geitz beginning to get over van Dyk the New Zealanders road to goal was beginning to be stifled.
With wing attack Tempara George feeding well into her shooters New Zealand begin to lift once again but a sharp shooting Medhurst ensured that the Diamonds took a 23-21 lead into half-time.
Ferns coach Ruth Aiken shifted her troops in the second half with George moving to centre, Liana Barrett-Chase coming on at wing attack and Katrina Grant being replaced by Leana de Bruin in goal keeper. Plummer made no changes.
An even quarter progressed for the opening five minutes with the Ferns still trailing by two at the 10 minute mark.
With de Bruin and Williams’ physicality turning the ball over in the goal circle the New Zealanders were able to lock the scores once again.
Van Dyk magic gave the Ferns a two goal lead with five minutes to go in the quarter with the New Zealanders beginning to gather some momentum, however a steady McMahon meant the lead never stretched to more than two.
A steadying goal by McMahon under the post meant the Ferns took a 36-35 goal lead into the final quarter.
Plummer changed up her troops entering the third quarter with Susan Fuhrmann replacing Geitz and Kim Green replacing Nourse.
Fuhrmann’s impact was instant with the tall defender matching van Dyk in the air, helping to lock the scores once again.
A goal for goal battle developed with Tutaia firing for the Ferns and Medhurst and McMahon reliable for the Diamonds under the post.
With the scores 41-all the Diamonds lifted and surged forward to score the next five goals and with five minutes left to play the lead gave the Ferns a very difficult task trying to pinch the result.
With the scoring even in the final minutes the Diamonds were able to hold on to their lead and grab a 48-43 win.
The Diamonds will travel To New Zealand tomorrow to take on the Ferns in two contests in Wellington and Auckland.
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