Netball fans were treated to an exciting opening match of the 2015 Constellation Cup, with the Australian Diamonds finishing 50-44 victors over the New Zealand Silver Ferns at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena.
Whilst the game was played mostly on even-footing, the diamonds were able to capitalise on their purple patches to keep the Silver Ferns at arms-length and claim Game 1 of the four-Test series.
NSW athletes Paige Hadley and Kim Ravaillion received the starting nod from Lisa Alexander at WA and C respectively, whilst Gabi Simpson replaced Vice Captain Renae Ingles during the second quarter to make her international debut.
It was a messy start for the World Champions as the Silver Ferns pounced on some early mistakes to post consecutive opening goals. But the slow start did little to deter the Diamonds who were able to even the scoreboard within five minutes.
There was plenty of spirit on both sides as the teams met for the first time since the Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015 Gold Medal match and neither Black & Silver nor Green & Gold wanted to take a backwards step.
It would be Australia who would emerge best, finding a purple patch to post a strong run of goals to take control of the match. While there would be a couple of injury timeouts – first to the Silver Ferns, then to Diamonds’ Renae Ingles who left the court – Australia were able to maintain their strong-hold on momentum to finished the first half 26-22 in advantage.
New Zealand came out all guns blazing for the start of the second half, their focus firmly on the scoreboard as they looked to claw back the deficit. They looked on track too after they found an extra gear by transitioning quickly down the court, partly driven by NSW Swifts’ 2016 import Laura Langman.
But the Kiwis couldn’t dispel the almost immaculate timing of the Australians, who seemed to know when, where and how their teammates would be almost by telepathy. Swifts’ own Paige Hadley looked comfortable in the Wing Attack bib having played the majority of the 2015 ANZ Championship in Centre, with the commentary team remarking on her solid positioning and availability in the Diamonds’ attacking third.
Both line-ups remained relatively unchanged throughout the match, which continued into the final quarter with both coaches making just one change to bring on fresh legs to their defensive ends – Clare McMeniman to WD for the Diamonds, whilst young defender Phoenix Karaka got the nod at GK for the Silver Ferns.
Karaka had an early impact, her first touch a deflection for her teammate Langman to collect while she also gave her opponent Caitlin Bassett little room in the circle. But in the end it couldn’t deliver the game-changing momentum the hosts greatly needed.
The Diamonds finished six-goal victors, however the final quarter will give Wai Taumaunu and her Silver Fern charges a lot of hope as they matched their opponents goal-for-goal. Netball fans won’t have to wait long to see the next contest with the Diamonds and Silver Ferns heading to Auckland for Game 2 on Thursday 22 October.
MVP: Nat Medhurst (Diamonds)
AUS│ Q1: 14 – Q2: 26 (12) – Q3: 40 (14) – Q4: 50 (10)
NZ│ Q1: 13 – Q2: 22 (9) – Q3: 34 (12) – Q4: 44 (10)
AUS: 50/58 @ 86%
C. Bassett: 38/44 @ 86%
N. Medhurst: 12/14 @ 86%
NZ: 44/53 @ 83%
B. Mes: 24/28 @ 86%
J. Brown: 20/25 @ 80%
AUS│ GS Caitlin Bassett, GA Natalie Medhurst, WA Paige Hadley, C Kim Ravaillion, WD Renae Ingles (VC), GD Sharni Layton, GK Laura Geitz (C)
NZ│ GS Bailey Mes, GA Jodi Brown, WA Grace Rasmussen, C Laura Langman (VC), WD Kayla Cullen, GD Leana de Bruin, GK Casey Kopua (C)
AUS│ Q2 Timeout – WD Gabi Simpson; Q4 – WD Clare McMeniman.
NZ│ Q3 – GD Katrina Grant; Q4 – GK Phoenix Karaka.