Wake up call drives Diamonds over the line

A SCARY start for the Australian Diamonds added fuel to the fire helping them break away in the second term and take the game by 47 goals (85-38) in front of some familiar faces in the Tonga Tala side.

Many of the Tonga side play in some Australian and New Zealand leagues, so those players would be familiar with several game styles thrown to them on the international stage with Uneeq Palavi, Kelea Iongi and Hulita Veve to name a few.

Veve opened Tonga’s account early with an intercept off the Diamonds centre pass right off the bat, sending tingles down the Australians spines. The Tongan side continued this fine form with the connection between Veve and Palavi being unstoppable. It seemed as though the Diamonds did not know what to expect, sending coach Stacy Marinkovich into a spiral in the most frustrated she has looked facing a side in a long time.

Tongan defender Mo’onia Gerrard returned to the court facing her former nation in the Diamonds who she has won two World Cups with so she wanted to stamp her authority quickly and get in the action. Instead, she picked up a warning only five minutes into the first quarter, pushing Tonga to perform fluently through court and capitalise off their turnovers in the shooting circle.

The Australian defenders were deers in the headlights with their focus not being on their player. They were floating into space, off their direct player, wanting to go out for the hunt which left the circle wide open for Palavi (29 goals) right under the post on three occasions in the first term alone. They quickly shifted gears and returned to their signature hard one on one game style in the second quarter.

Palavi found really good space along the baseline and looked straight to the ring with them dropping straight through the middle on most occasions.

Kiera Austin (10) was a highlight for Australia in the shooting circle with her timing and entry into said shooting circle. She knew exactly when to shoot the goal or when to dish off to Cara Koenen (29) who was available nine out of 10 times on the baseline, her favourite position on the court.

A perfect start to the second term for the Diamonds gave them a handy lead thanks to a 10-goal run, leaving Tonga scoreless for the first five minutes. Australia quickly jumped out to a 39-19 half-time lead, a complete flip of what was performed in the first quarter by both nations.

Fresh legs for the Diamonds in the second half gave them a boost of confidence looking like a completely different side. They were not doing anything special, but they just did their jobs and did them really well. 

Player of the match Jamie-Lee Price showed exactly why she was selected in the side with an outstanding game in centre, racking up 32 feeds, 20 goal assists and four gains. She found the circle edge with ease and was able to get the ball into the shooters in prime shooting position, if not, they would shuffle around using their pulley system and then end up in a perfect shooting opportunity.

Jo Weston came out all guns blazing with three intercepts in the third quarter alone, trying to cement herself as Australia’s starting goal defence and putting a really good resume in for it.

Australia’s last 45 minutes were cut and paste of each other. Scoring off their turnover ball and leaving Tonga with a massive turnover count of 36, too high for the elite level.

Tonga will go on to face Zimbabwe tomorrow in what will be another close encounter as both sides are having a tournament to remember, whereas Australia will play Fiji in what is expected to be a blowout but you never know what the Pearls are going to throw at the Diamonds.

New Zealand (54) defeated Uganda (44)

Fourth quarter dominance ultimately got the Silver Ferns just over the line with their ten-goal victory over Uganda. Both sides had outstanding matches yesterday with both getting significant wins over lower ranked nations. It was goal for goal for most of the outing with neither side able to pull out to more than a two goal lead and maintain it for majority of the game until New Zealand put the foot down with a 16 – 12 fourth quarter score. The table really flipped for the Silver Ferns after yesterday’s performance as Uganda made it ever so hard for New Zealand to score and convert from their turnovers.

Tall target Mary Cholhok (30) was a constant for the She Cranes standing up stern under the post while getting on the move causing the Silver Ferns zone structure to shift and free herself up to then get under the said post. Down the other end, the introduction of Te Paea Selby-Rickit (17) at half time added a lot more movement to New Zealand’s shooting circle and it got the Silver Ferns off rolling off the hand of Phoenix Karaka’s (five gains, three rebounds, three deflections) defensive efforts and pressure in front of the Ugandan attack line.

Zimbabwe (48) defeated by Fiji (52)

Fiji took their first win of the tournament with a four-goal win over Zimbabwe thanks to a third quarter blitz. It was a close finish with the Gems planning a come back but the Pearls just held off despite a fourth quarter push.

Nalani Makunde continued her hot form from yesterday taking Zimbabwe’s shooting load with 29, only missing one goal. Most of her goals were from right under the post, giving her so much credit in her ability to get into the right space at the right time and guarantee the Gems a goal, rewarding them for their efforts. The Pearls now have a clear game plan, an even shooting load. Fiji goal attack Unaisi Rauluni did a mountain or work out the front of the circle with 28 feeds, very similar to fellow wing attack Ana Neupe with 21, with Rauluni getting 28 goals of her own, just proving how important she is in the Fiji line up.

Jamaica (75) defeated Wales (40)

Jamaica continued their hot form with a 35-goal win over Wales with accuracy letting the Feathers down the most. The Jamaicans shot at 90 percent for the game compared to Wales’ 74 percent, proving costly as Jamaica played an extremely clean game, coughing the ball up only 11 times.

Shamera Sterling was a force to be reckoned with and forced a ring of changes for Wales in their shooting circle where they never looked comfortable. Her clean approach to the ball helped her seven gains where captain Jhaniele Fowler (39) was finishing Sterling’s hard work off down the other end. Bethan Dyke and Shona O’Dwyer took an equal amount of ball handling load sharing 30 and 25 feeds respectively as they could get the ball into the Welsh shooters, but they were unable to finish it off at the post.

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