Kiwi Constellation Cup retention closer to reality

NEW Zealand has taken a giant step towards winning the 2022 Constellation Cup, after defeating the Aussie Diamonds by four goals in the second of the four tests in the series. It was an even battle early, but the Silver Ferns bided their time to break away in the third term and ultimately take the win.

NEW ZEALAND   12 | 12 | 15 | 13 (52)
AUSTRALIA          13 | 12 | 9 | 14 (48)       

From game one was one change to the starting line-up for both sides. For the Aussies, it was Jamie-Lee Price starting over Kate Moloney, while for the Silver Ferns, Sulu Fitzpatrick got the nod to start over Kelly Jury. Meanwhile there were also a few new faces on the bench for the Diamonds in with a chance to make their international debut – Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Sophie Dwyer and Maddy Proud.

It was a jittery start to the clash, with a number of intercepts off the opening centre pass before the Diamonds got the goal. In a very even first quarter, both sides traded blows, before the Aussies started to break away in the back half of the term. The Silver Ferns then made a change and wing defence, bringing on Kayla Johnson, and the Diamonds’ lead was gone as quickly as it was built. The Diamonds quickly rebuilt their lead, but after a Kiwi fightback the margin sat at a mere single goal at the first break.  

New Zealand made another change at quarter time, as Jury came on for Fitzpatrick. The Diamonds’ continued to keep their lead through much of the second term, with the Aussies extending it out to as much as four goals. This saw the Kiwis make another change with Kate Heffernan returning to the court but in centre instead. She was not the only centre to be subbed on, with Proud coming on during the quarter for the Diamonds.

The Silver Ferns certainly fought their way back into the game but could not quite eliminate the Aussie lead completely, so by half time the margin remained at a single goal. The Diamonds did not make any changes at half time, while Johnson returned to the court at wing defence for New Zealand.

Things started to fall apart slightly for the Diamonds in the third term, as New Zealand really lifted and as such raced out to as much as a four goal lead. This saw the Diamonds blood their second debutant of the night, with Dwyer coming on for Steph Wood. Things did not improve for the Diamonds as the Silver Ferns lead stretched out to six, so debutant number three Bakewell-Doran was brought on to hopefully change the tide for the visitors.

A big call against the Silver Ferns just on the three quarter time siren saw the margin sit at five in favour of the Ferns at the final change, but the momentum was all with the host side. The changes kept coming for the Diamonds at three quarter time, with the hope that the third quarter was not going to dictate the final result of the game.

Unfortunately for the Diamonds, despite winning the final quarter they were unable to turn things around fully as New Zealand kept the intensity and the pressure going to ultimately win by four. For the Kiwis, Grace Nweke was on fire under the ring, not missing a single shot for the night, while captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio only missed four.

Elisapeta Toeava had another stellar game, finishing with 27 goal assists and 36 feeds. Meanwhile for the Aussies, Wood only missed two shots for the evening, while captain Liz Watson was a hard worker all game, finishing with 37 feeds and 15 assists.

The series now moves to Melbourne on Wednesday night, where the Diamonds will be looking to bounce back on home soil.

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