Diamonds shine bright to do it again

WHEN a Diamond in under pressure it sparkles, so there should be no surprise that the world number ones Australia Diamonds found a way to reach another Netball World Cup final. Having lost to England a couple pf nights ago and on the back foot coming up against Jamaica the Diamonds managed to do it again, booking their place in the decider following a 57-54 win over the Sunshine Girls.

It was a nail-biting affair from start to finish, with Australia only able to kick away at the end courtesy of a couple of extra goals when it counted, to secure a victory. After New Zealand went down to England earlier in the day, there was history on the line for Jamaica if the Sunshine Girls could win. Never in the history of the World Cup had neither the Diamonds or Silver Ferns both missed the World Cup final.

After beating Australia at the Commonwealth Games in the group stage, only to lose to the green and gold in the final, the stage was set to be a ripper, and both sides knew this was it. No turning back from a do-or-die semi-final.

Australia threw down the first punch via Steph Wood, with Cara Koenen getting the Aussies an early buffer. As soon as that had happened, Sunshine Girls skipper Jhaniele Fowler responded with back-to-back goals. At one point during the first term, the lead skipped out to to a two-goal margin as Fowler and her Wet Coast Fever teammate Courtney Bruce went had-to-head.

Fowler scored 13 goals at 100 per cent in the first term, as Shanice Beckford handed of seven goal assists, but the combination of Wood and Koenen allowed both Australian shooters to share the load and put up 14 goals. It was a sizzling opening term with just five combined turnovers and by the end of it, the teams were all square.

It was the same in the second term, with both sides remaining unchanged and going at it for a full 15 minutes. Australia got out to a three-goal lead in the opening five minutes, only for Fowler to work her magic in the final five minutes and score six of the last eight goals. Jamaica hit the front, but a shot from Koenen on the buzzer found the back of the net and the sides again headed into the half level, 29-29.

In the centre, Paige Hadley and Nicole Dixon-Rochester had both had nine goal assists to the main break, as Liz Watson (eight goal assists) was having a fierce battle with Latanya Wilson. Stacey Marinkovich switched out Hadley for Jamie-Lee Price in centre at the break, and that worked a treat as her work freed up Watson (seven goal assists for the term).

Australia raced out to a four-goal lead which prompted Connie Francis to switch up her defensive setup and bring on Crystal Plummer for Jodi-Ann Ward, with Wilson moving to goal defence. Initially Australia kept firing to get out to as much as a six-goal lead, before the Jamaican side began to steady. Khadijah Williams (five goal assists) was setting up Fowler (nine goals) and Beckford (two) who both went at 100 per cent, while Adean Thomas came on for Dixon-Rochester.

Fowler scored four consecutive goals which drew the teams level once again, but back-to-back goals to Wood ensured Australia took a two-goal buffer into the final break, 42-40. Though neither side made a move at the change, after Fowler scored the first three goals of the final term, Marinkovich switched out Brazil to inject the youth of Sunday Aryang into wing defence.

The teams traded blows back and fourth, but another quick three goals from Fowler – off the back of great defensive work up the court, resulted in the Jamaicans going out to a 48-45 lead. History was beckoning for the Sunshine Girls, but the Diamonds under pressure were determined to shine bright. Both Watson and Price stepped up to set up Koenen and Wood to draw level again, and the teams went back to level.

Jamaica made its final change of the match with Dixon-Rochester returning in centre, Thomas sliding into wing attack and Williams subbed off. Just two minutes earlier, Australia brought Jo Weston back on to replace Sarah Klau, and rejoin her partnership with Bruce. That seemed to do the trick as the Aussies roared to level and went up by two once again.

Jamaica would not be denied as Fowler cut the deficit to just one goal heading into the final few minutes and the crowd was at fever pitch. Though the experience and determination of the Aussies just found a way through. Whenever the Diamonds were in trouble, they found an answer. Then, when they stretched the margin by as much as four goals with 90 seconds, it was game over. Jamaica pushed it out to the end, but ultimately had fallen short to the green and gold again.

Bruce’s work in defence on Fowler was outstanding, picking up five deflections, four gains, two intercepts, one rebound and one Player of the Match award. Price’s work since coming on helped add a different element to the Australian lineup, while Watson finished with 20 goal assists. The pairing of Koenen (28 goals from 30 attempts and two rebounds) and Wood (29 goals from 32 attempts and 14 goal assists) were both consistent in the shooting circle.

For Jamaica, Fowler still shot 46 goals from 47 attempts, but got less out of Beckford (eight goals from 10 attempts, but 17 goal assists). Shamera Sterling just played her role all game, finishing with four gains, two intercepts nad two rebounds, while Williams had 17 goal assists before coming off in the last quarter.

Australia now sets its sights on England in the Gold Medal Match, while Jamaica will play for bronze against New Zealand.

Wales (57) defeated Scotland (42)

Wales comprehensively took care of rivals Scotland to secure ninth place at the Netball World Cup, getting up by 15 goals in the later match The Feathers won each of the fourth quarters by at least two goals, with the second half of 32 goals to 21 doing all the damage en route to a 57-42 victory.

Georgia Rowe won Player of the Match after shooting 42 goals from 45 attempts, as she teamed up well with Phillipa Yarranton (15 goals from 17 attempts, 18 goal assists and two intercepts). Bethan Dyke (18 goal assists) and Clare Jones (16) were both outstanding in driving the ball forward, while Christina Shaw (two intercepts, six rebounds, four deflections and eight gains) was strong in defence.

For Scotland, Niamh McCall tried hard in attack with 19 goals from 26 attempts and six goal assists, while Emma Love picked up 11 goal assists in just 23 minutes. Cerys Finn had another strong game in just a half on court registering two rebounds, four deflections, three gains and one intercept.

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