Silver Ferns 53
It was an unhappy Silver Ferns side that lifted the Constellation Cup tonight, with 30 minutes of cringe-inducing netball taking the gloss off their series win over Australia.
After gutsy wins in Melbourne and Auckland, the Ferns suffered an ugly six-goal defeat to Australia in the final test in Christchurch, let down by two horror middle quarters.
Without Maria Tutaia, their star performer in the first two tests, the Ferns struggled on attack, with Irene van Dyk put under too much pressure in the shooting circle.
Yet to produce their best netball over the series, Australia were determined to show greater intensity last night, and the Ferns wilted when the heat went on in the second and third quarters. The Ferns scored five more goals in the first quarter than they could manage in the second and third quarters combined.
They rallied in the last spell, as Australia struggled to adjust to the change in the Ferns attacking dynamic with the introduction of Cathrine Latu in the final period.
Having used the same seven in both their opening wins, Waimarama Taumaunu hoped to use the third test as an opportunity to expose some other lines to the red-hot environment of a transtasman international. She had no choice but to try a new shooting combination, with Tutaia ruled out of the finale with a knee injury.
That saw Jodi Brown come in to the starting line-up at goal attack, for her first test appearance since 2007. Brown made a strong start, but was soon worn down by the dogged Australian defence and her execution fell away, committing 11 turnovers for the match. But Brown wasn't the only culprit in the Ferns side, with the basic skills seeming to desert them for a patch in the middle.
Bitterly disappointed at her side's showing in the opening two tests, Australian coach Lisa Alexander promised a more steely performance from her side in the finale.
But again the Australians struggled to find their feet early on, as they could not find easy passage through New Zealand's blanket defence.
The visitors made little impact defensively in the opening period, with van Dyk and Brown scoring freely.
Trailing 20-15 at the first break, Alexander made a change to her defensive end, with Rebecca Bulley coming on in place of Bianca Chatfield.
A gritty tracking defender, it did not take Bulley long to frustrate Brown, and the shooter's error rate climbed, contributing five turnovers in the second quarter. With Hallinan doing a superb job of containing Camilla Lees busy, the Ferns attack end came to a standstill, and the Australian shooters fed off the wealth of turnover ball coming their way.
With five minutes remaining before halftime the Australians got their noses in front at 27-26, and once they hit the lead they did not look back.
By halftime they held a 32-28 advantage, which they extended out to 47-35 heading in to the final turn.
(Q1 - 20-15 , Q2 - 8-17 , Q3 - 7-15 , Q4 - 18-12)
Irene van Dyk 19/21
Jodi Brown 21/25
Cathrine Latu 13/13
Caitlin Bassett 40/50
Natalie Medhurst 19/20