Netball: No consolation for beaten Ferns

By Dana Johannsen

Australia 44 New Zealand 41


Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman and her team dominated the opening exchanges but couldn't counter the Australian onslaught in the second half. Photo / Getty Images
Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman and her team dominated the opening exchanges but couldn't counter the Australian onslaught in the second half. Photo / Getty Images

It had been nicknamed the Consolation Cup, but the Silver Ferns will walk away from the 2011 season empty-handed after being run down by another come-from-behind effort from Australia.

The Diamonds claimed the Constellation Cup for the second straight year in Melbourne last night, after the Ferns blew a six-goal halftime lead because of what coach Waimarama Taumaunu believes was "an absolute lack of composure".

In doing so, Australia reclaimed the No 1 world ranking, which curiously was still held by New Zealand even after July's loss at the world championships.

The Australians also broke a remarkable 11-game stretch dating back to September 2009 in which the wins had alternated between the two countries every game.

The new transtasman sporting prize to celebrate New Zealand and Australia's epic netball rivalry had been nicknamed "Consolation Cup" after Australia won the trophy last season, but went on to lose the Commonwealth Games final.

This time the Ferns had the opportunity to claim comfort after their world championship heartbreak by not only claiming the silverware, but by becoming the first New Zealand side in 30 years to win a series on Australian soil.

Instead, as stand-in New Zealand captain Laura Langman put it, "there'll be a few pebbles, or boulders probably more like, under our beach towels this summer".

With the opportunity to make history in Melbourne, the Ferns started full of resolve.

They were playing with speed and precision on attack, and uncompromising on defence with the defensive pairing of Leana de Bruin and Anna Scarlett picking up some impressive turnovers to restrict Australia to just 16 goals in the first half.

But it wasn't just the defensive circle making an impact - New Zealand were committed right throughout the court, with even attackers Maria Tutaia and Liana Leota picking up intercepts.

Having dominated the opening exchanges, the Ferns took a handy 22-16 lead into the long break, although they could have added another goal had it not been for some cynical defence from Australia, who infringed repeatedly to slow the ball down and stop it from getting to the Ferns.

The question was, could the Ferns hold on when the now customary Australian onslaught came in the second half? The answer was no.

Needing a change-up in the attack end, Australian coach Lisa Alexander introduced 1.92m shooter and world champs hero Caitlin Bassett at halftime in place of captain Catherine Cox. With such a tall target at the back, the ball flowed much easier in to the shooting circle for Australia, and in the space of seven minutes, the Ferns' lead was halved to three goals.

New Zealand's cause was not helped when a basic error from the bench officials saw Australia awarded two consecutive centre pass-offs.

The mistake eroded the Ferns' composure and Australia seized the advantage, levelling the game at 31-all, before taking a 33-31 lead into the final period.

Having been silenced by New Zealand's first half dominance, the 9600-strong crowd at Hisense Arena sprung to life in the face of the Aussie fightback, willing their side over the line in a tense final 15 minutes.

Taumaunu believes the seven-minute patch leading up to three-quarter time saw the game lost for New Zealand. "The lack of composure at the end of the third quarter I think was an aberration and I think up until then and after that, the people on court performed pretty well," she said.

"So I'm hugely disappointed. We had an opportunity to win a series that we have not made for ourselves in a very long time."

- NZ Herald

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