• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

So impressive in Tuesday’s opener, the Silver Ferns turn in an error-ridden showing in second Constellation Cup test loss to Australia.

Mar 3, 2021

You can’t keep an Australian netball team down for long.
Australia roared back into the Constellation Cup, toppling the Silver Ferns 45-36 in the second test in Christchurch on Wednesday to even the series at 1-1 with two matches to play.
Again played behind closed doors under Covid-19 level 2 restrictions, the Diamonds delivered the turnaround performance Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua was wary of.
So impressive in Tuesday’s 49-44 first test win, it was a bitterly disappointing showing from the Ferns who would have been determined to back up their play and build a 2-0 lead in the series.
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New Zealand haven’t won the trophy since 2012 and will need to quickly go back to the drawing board ahead of the final two tests over the weekend, if they want to snap that long drought.
Sluggish to begin the game, the Ferns quickly fell into a 15-6 first quarter hole and by halftime were in huge trouble, down 30-16.
Trailing by that sort of scoreline against a team of the Diamonds class, it was always going to be a mountain to climb.
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Silver Ferns goal shoot Maia Wilson shouldered the shooting end without the injured Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
Whatever Taurua said to her players in the halftime changing room seemed to work with New Zealand finally waking from their first half slumber.
They made a 7-1 start to the second half to trim Australia’s lead to 31-23 and give themselves hope.
New Zealand finished the match the stronger of the two sides, but the damage had been done.
Give the Australians plenty of credit. New coach Stacey Marinkovich and her squad went away after Tuesday’s loss and did their homework on the Ferns and carried their game plan out to perfection.
Having spent 14 days in managed isolation and only getting out on Monday, Australia were naturally slow out of the blocks in the first test. Wednesday was a different story.
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Ferns goal keep Sulu Fitzpatrick tries to stop Australia’s Kiera Austin on Wednesday.
Blown off the court in the first half, the Ferns resembled a rabble in defender and vice captain Jane Watson’s 50th test.
The Ferns were dealt a blow on the eve of the game with captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio rested as a precaution after a knock to her right calf late in the first test. They badly missed her presence and will be eager to get her back on court healthy for Saturday’s third test.
Monica Falkner stepped into Ekenasio’s starting spot at goal attack, earning her first run-on appearance for the Ferns. She was replaced after just one quarter, putting up just two attempts, as the Ferns made a sloppy start.
Maybe it was the Australian team’s decal sponsor stickers plastered over the court, but the Diamonds looked far more polished to start the game than 24 hours earlier. This was deemed an Australian home game’ with the Constellation Cup traditionally featuring two games in both New Zealand and Australia.
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Monica Falkner started at goal attack for the Ferns in the place of injured captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
It was some start from the Diamonds, who fed off their strong finish to the first test, racing out to a 7-1 advantage after six minutes.
The Ferns couldn’t have asked for a worse start, turning the ball over four times in the opening minutes and battling to get the ball into their shooters or even put up attempts.
Cashing in off sloppy Ferns’ passing, Australia were able to fly through court finding the new-look shooting combination of Cara Koenen and Kiera Austin, both in their second test with, ease.
Koenen, who Taurua mentored at the Sunshine Coast Lightning, was busy for the Diamonds, slotting 12 of her 13 attempts in the opening 15 minutes.
She benefited from accurate delivery from test two skipper Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, racking up 19 goals from 20 attempts in the first half.
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Jane Watson’s parents, Ross and Mary, cheer her on in her 50th test for the Silver Ferns in Christchurch.
Taurua was quick to go to her bench with two minutes left in the first quarter. Clearly unhappy with what she was seeing, Taurua handed a debut to 21-year-old Maddy Gordon, who replaced Sam Winders at wing defence, becoming Silver Fern No 177.
Down 15-6 after the first quarter, there were further changes with Bailey Mes, back after a year sidelined with a serious knee injury, slotting into goal attack and Sulu Fitzpatrick on at goal keep.
New Zealand weren’t done there, altering their midcourt around with Shannon Saunders and Whitney Souness both getting their chance in a bid to spark the stuttering Ferns.
Whatever combinations the Ferns ran with they had few answers for the slick Diamonds, who were dialled in at both ends of the court and capitalised from any mistakes.
The Ferns showed greater accuracy and intensity in the second half, cutting Australia’s advantage to 38-28 entering the final quarter. Having to chase the game and make up such a large first half deficit proved too steeper challenge though.
Taurua and her side have plenty to ponder for the weekend.
Australia 45 (Cara Koenen: 29/34, Kiera Austin: 13/24, Sophie Garbin: 3/6) New Zealand 36 (Maia Wilson: 32/38, Monica Falkner: 1/2, Bailey Mes: 3/5) 1Q: 15-6, HT: 30-16, 3Q: 38-28.