New Zealand 57
The Silver Ferns have pulled off a stunning 10-goal rout over Australia to claim the Quad Series title for the first time.
Written off after a poor showing against England on Wednesday night, the Ferns answered their critics perfectly by running riot over Australia, who looked rattled all afternoon.
Needing to win by four goals to take out the series, New Zealand did so comfortably, charging out to an 18-10 lead at the first break and the Diamonds were unable to make any inroads into that lead throughout the match.
The win completed an afternoon of boilovers at Stadium Southland in Invercargill, with South Africa pulling off a shock 54-51 win over England in the opening match of the double-header. It was the Proteas first win in the Quad Series since the event was introduced a year ago, underlining their status as the big movers in international netball.
But it was the Ferns who produced the biggest shock of the afternoon, making the world champion Australian side look ordinary.
After Wednesday night's lacklustre showing against England, New Zealand skipper Katrina Grant was delighted with the resolve her side showed to put things right in the finale."No one has had much belief in us, but we have so much belief in this side and I'm just so, so pleased we got it done," said Grant.
A couple of bold selection decisions from coach Janine Southby, who opted to start Bailey Mes in the unfamiliar position of goal attack, effectively swapping bibs with Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
Southby also plumped for young defender Kelly Jury, who was sidelined from Wednesday's match with an ankle injury, at goal keep - handing the 21-year-old her first start against Australia. Pitted against Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett, Jury delivered a player of the match performance, forcing the Australian sharpshooter to the bench in the third quarter.
At 1.92m tall, Jury is just one centimetre shy of Bassett, eliminating the height advantage in the shooting circle Australia have enjoyed for so long. With the Australian attack unable to sight Bassett as easily, they were hesitant to put the ball into the circle, upsetting their rhythm on attack.
Jury was well supported by a committed and determined defensive effort from her teammates right throughout the court. Midcourters Shannon Francois and Sam Sinclair were especially influential, having a field day on the circle edge.
Sinclair, who was under pressure to deliver a strong showing and push her case for regular inclusion in the test side, forced Australian midcourt star Madison Robinson to the bench during the second quarter.
With the players no longer having regular exposure to one another in transtasman league, there was much anticipation over the first meeting between New Zealand and Australia of the post-ANZ Championship era. Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander believed the split in the competition had amplified the traditional transtasman rivalry.
The split seemed to have worked in New Zealand's favour, with the Diamonds appearing to have forgotten how to play against the zone style of defence, committing basic errors that were out of character for the usually well-drilled Australians.
Bassett said she was disappointed her side were unable to adjust to the Ferns approach.
"I think it was just too many errors on our behalf. A lot of the mistakes were of our own doing and we didn't respond," said Bassett, who was delivered her first loss as skipper today.
The Diamonds were their own worst enemies on defence too, committing 84 penalties. Defender Courtney Bruce at goal keep was the worst offender, picking up 18 penalties before she was benched at three quarter time after receiving an official warning from the umpires.
"I guess our Australian style is to be more on the body, but again, we just didn't adjust and that wasn't good enough," said Bassett.
Australia opened with a string of early turnovers, with Mes and Grant picking up easy intercepts in the first five minutes to help the Ferns out to a handy early lead.
Jury also made her presence felt early, with the Australians struggling to sight Bassett at the back as the miscommunications began to pile up.
Trailing by eight goals at the first break, Australia set about pegging back the deficit, closing to within four mid-way through the second spell. But every time the Diamonds got on a roll, the Ferns answered with one of their own and were able to maintain a healthy 31-24 lead at halftime.
The home side put their foot down in the third period as their defensive dominance forced Australia to make a string of changes to their midcourt and shooting line-up, including benching Bassett in favour of Caitlin Thwaites.
The new combinations did not have the desired impact for Alexander, as the Ferns stretched out to a commanding 11-goal lead at the final turn.