Silver Ferns force fourth game decider

NEWLY named ‘Robyn Broughton Stadium’ in Invercargill witnessed a 56-53 result as the Silver Ferns forced a fourth ‘live’ Constellation Cup game decider after defeating Australia by three goals in the third test.

The Silver Ferns caused some doubt in the Australian camp as midway through the first quarter, they were up by four goals. The ball placement into shooters was executed perfectly into the free space and the Australian defenders had no chance of getting a tip.

It did not last long though, as the Diamonds quickly responded with a massive seven-goal run that all stemmed from a misfeed into tall timber Grace Nweke (34 goals).

Business was not as easy for the Australian shooters, as the New Zealand defenders were working overtime winning ball for their side that were capitalised off of down the other end.

Player of the match Kelly Jury (five gains — two intercepts, two blocks, one deflection — and two rebounds) stepped up to the occasion and caused a lot of disruptions in the shooting circle, putting everything into the contests. Her long lean on the shot caused a lot of uncharacterised misses for the Diamonds while getting two blocked shots in her 60 minutes.

Australia did lead at the first break though, 14-10.

The second quarter was one to remember for the Silver Ferns as they had won only their second quarter of the series and it was important as ever. They turned around a six-goal deficit into a four-goal lead at half-time, 28-24 thanks to a run of nine goals. It was an 18-14 second term.

The Silver Ferns’ defence was massive, and they had players available to get the pick ups and to be a pressure release.

The changes of Tiana Metuarau (10 feeds, seven goal assists and two goals) and Whitney Souness (nine feeds and seven goal assists) at the end of the first term were just what New Zealand needed in their attack end. Souness had a great change of pace to the game, keeping the Australian defenders on their toes while being confident on the feed.

Metuarau also had a big impact taking advantage of the space given to her in the shooting circle as the Aussie defenders were too focused on the feed into Nweke who was the most dominant shooter out on court.

The Diamonds really needed to turn up the effort in the third quarter. and that is exactly what happened.

The changes into Australia’s attack was what was needed with the injection of Jamie-Lee Price (17 feeds, 11  goal assists and two intercepts) and Sophie Garbin (21 goals) bringing even more physicality into an already tough outing. The ball was getting into the shooting circle a lot better with Garbin making great space for herself and while both herself and Price brought the strength to take the ball under a lot of pressure.

It was the last term that the Silver Ferns took the reins and they pleased a very vocal Kiwi crowd. After going back and forth for the majority of the quarter, the Silver Ferns took back the lead midway through and did not drop a beat. Multiple lead changes were causing headaches out on court as the pressure mounted, and New Zealand got the better of it.

A miss from Garbin — her first for the game — cemented the victory for New Zealand as they took the third test, quite convincingly. It is all or nothing coming Monday as the Silver Ferns have the chance to take back the Constellation Cup, or Diamonds retain.

New Zealand need to win the next test by at least 17 goals, or else Australia retain the title as the reigning Constellation Cup holders even after a tied series.

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