Silver Ferns 48
Constellation Cup victors last month, the Silver Ferns came crashing back to earth today in Sydney with an ugly defeat to Australia in the clash of the Quad Series heavyweights.
The 20-goal defeat was the Ferns biggest loss to Australia since 2000, while the Diamonds 68-goals was the highest score they've ever racked up against their transtasman rivals.
The Ferns never looked in it from the opening whistle, with the Australian side, stung by their 2-1 series loss to New Zealand last month, committed and focused from the outset.
The smothering defence the Ferns pride themselves on did not seem to click in to place, as the visitors struggled to force any turnover ball from the slick Diamonds attack.
But where New Zealand side struggled the most was in the midcourt, with Kayla Cullen, still new to the centre position, finding the going tough against Australia. Cullen
The Ferns could not seem to get any rhythm on attack, with their ball movement through court slow and stilted. That placed unnecessary pressure on the likes of Laura Langman and Maria Tutaia, who both had extremely high turnover counts.
Keen to expose some different lines against Australia, Waimarama Taumaunu opted to start Cathrine Latu at goal shoot and Cullen at centre, with Laura Langman moving to wing attack - not a good sign for rookie midcourter Bailey Mes.
Undone by some poor starts during the Constellation Cup series, Lisa Alexander demanded intensity from her side from the outset.
The Diamonds duly responded, with Catherine Cox and Susan Pratley starting strongly and confidently in the shooting circle as they made sure they capitalised on every scrap of ball their side won.
Trailing 13-6 nine minutes in to the match, the Silver Ferns called an injury break to try and address their awful start. The look of disapproval on Taumaunu's face said it all,
But the break did little to spark a revival from the Ferns as the continued to make basic errors on attack.
With the scoreline blowing out to 19-9 by the first break, Taumaunu was forced to abandon her efforts to give Latu more gametime against Australia, and call in Irene van Dyk off the bench.
Ferns captain Casey Williams, who earlier in the week admitted she is still struggling for form, was also injected at quartertime, replacing Leana de Bruin at goal defence.
While the Ferns midcourter looked more comfortable feeding van Dyk, the Australian defence did a good job of preventing New Zealand from getting good circle edge feeding positions.
By halftime Australia had managed to extend their lead out to 35-23, with Cox looking unstoppable in the shooting circle, putting the ball up from all over the circle.
With limited midcourt options on the bench, Taumaunu had little choice to stick with Cullen and Langman, though it was clear the Ferns vice-captain was missed in centre.
The sprawling, if a little uncoordinated defensive style of Rebecca Bulley and Bianca Chatfield, caused Tutaia all sorts of problems, and as her frustration grew, so too did her error count, with the star shooter finishing with 12 of the team's 27 turnovers.By Dana Johannsen Email Dana