Australia sends message to Kiwis ahead of third test

AUSTRALIA extended its series lead 2-0 by nine-goals in a scary 55-46 loss for the Silver Ferns in Brisbane.

The pressure is mounting on New Zealand as they have to win their stretch of games by more than a total of 19 goals. If they win the remaining two games and have the 19 goal advantage, then the Diamonds retain the Constellation Cup. Australia only needs to win the next game in Invercargill to keep the cup in their grasp.

New Zealand started the game significantly better this test than on Thursday in Melbourne, going goal for goal for the first seven minutes. The attackers were getting good depth on second phase, but they gave themselves enough space to re-offer further up the court to not be caught too deep in their attacking third.

The ball was getting into the New Zealand shooting circle nicely for the most part as Amelia Walmsley (17 goals) held strong and the middies were sighting her and giving the ball in when she was calling for it.

It was a miss from New Zealand and an offensive contact that sent the ball down the other end of the court, quickly swinging the momentum and the beginning of a five-goal run where Australia took the 16 – 11 lead into the first break.

New Zealand responded well in the second term by levelling the quarter score, but still down by the five-goals.

International sensation Grace Nweke (21 goals and three rebounds) returned to the court for the first time since her knee injury and didn’t miss a beat. The whole Silver Ferns attack line were a lot more comfortable knowing Nweke was back at the post with a good chance she was able to pull in the ball and score. She did give away quite a few offensive contacts and gave away four turnovers in her 30 minutes, but she completely changed the game for the Silver Ferns.

Nweke rattled the Australian defence line as they had a whole new ball game to think about. It took a while for Courtney Bruce (24 penalties, five gains) to get into her element, but when she started the ball rolling, she was on fire. Nweke’s four turnovers all came in the second quarter that were directly caused by Bruce’s physical and menacing defence that was hard on the body. As Bruce’s confidence started to rise, then she started to hunt outside of the circle.

Miscommunication was a struggle for the Diamonds shooters in the second term, giving compliments to the Silver Ferns circle defenders. 

Silver Ferns up and comer Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (25 feeds, 11 goal assists) played fearlessly,  unafraid to let the ball go from anywhere in their attacking third which was finding the shooters well on multiple occasions.

It was the mental game and the confidence knowing that Nweke’s elevation was enough to be able to give those type of passes that Nweke was going to grab it strongly with two hands.

The third quarter was very much cut and paste of the first. Australia’s tight defence was enough to rattle the New Zealand shooters, and the Diamonds were able to get the ball in their shooting circle and shoot with confidence.

Player of the match Paige Hadley (20 feeds, 14 goal assists, zero turnovers) celebrated her 50th test match in style. She is an absolute workhorse for the Diamonds and a lot of it goes unnoticed as she just does her job, and does it well. She was able to get the ball quite easily into Cara Koenen (33 goals) who finished the game on 100 percent.

New Zealand had another even quarter in the last with the shooting combination of Nweke and Tiana Metuarau (nine feeds, two goals) working well for them. Metuaru was giving the ball right away when she saw the space open which started the Silver Ferns comeback.

Australia had five-goal run midway through the fourth term, and although New Zealand responded with their own five goal stretch, but it was too late as the Diamonds had already secured the win.

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