Netball: Silver Ferns take down Australia with thrilling comeback victory in third Constellation Cup test
The Silver Ferns are one step closer to claiming the Constellation Cup for the first time in nine years.
But a come-from-behind 55-49 win over Australia in Christchurch still leaves plenty riding on the final game of the four-match series.
The Ferns now lead the series 2-1, and have a goal difference of +2, but with the tiebreaker for a 2-2 tie being goal difference – and a dead heat on goal difference going in favour of the holders – an Australian win by two goals or more will see the trophy remain across the Tasman.
As it happened: How the Silver Ferns won the third test
Trying not to get ahead of things, Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio said she was pleased with her side’s comeback.
“The game was exactly what we expected and we knew we had to stay with it and we couldn’t let them get away with it,” she said.
“It seems that we continue to grow in our connections regardless of what’s happening on the scoreboard, and we felt it was coming so we backed ourselves and relied on our game plan to work.”
It took a while for that game plan to be executed, with the Diamonds quickly establishing a decent lead.
Australia’s defence was on top form as the Ferns let slip a number of early opportunities to score.
The Ferns welcomed the return of their captain after the star shooter was sidelined with a calf injury on Wednesday. While not contributing as many shots as goal shoot Maia Wilson, Ekenasio was accurate with the ones she did take and created space for her prolific teammate, who nailed 41 of 43 attempts.
At the other end, Diamonds shooter Cara Koenen continued to shine in her first international series – so much so it saw Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua switch up her defensive lineup early in the second quarter, calling on the services of Karin Burger.
After defensive errors plagued them in the final minutes of the first half, the Ferns started to focus on executing their attack.
It worked a charm in the first half of the third quarter as New Zealand chipped away at a five-goal deficit to level the match.
Kimiora Poi got her opportunity in the centre bib, and often praised as the team’s ‘pocket-rocket’, she led the midcourt with crucial energy.
After briefly levelling the scoreboard, the Ferns yo-yoed in and out of contention, going into the final quarter down by two goals.
Confident shooting from Wilson boosted the Ferns into the lead with just eight minutes on the clock, and experienced Diamonds shooter Caitlin Bassett, who had spent the game on the bench, was thrust onto the court in a bid to confuse Ferns defenders.
But the Ferns had already found an unbeatable rhythm and as their lead extended, there was nothing left Australia could do, with the Ferns’ 17-9 final quarter advantage potentially pivotal if goal difference is required to decide the Cup.
The Ferns’ efforts to finally take the Cup will be backed by a full stadium of fans in Christchurch on Sunday, with a crowd allowed thanks to the lowering of alert levels.
The final game gets under way at 4:15pm.
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