Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Australia squash Silver Ferns

Australia 62 New Zealand 50

From upstarts to upstaged.

The Silver Ferns experienced the full force of a wounded Australian side at Vector Arena tonight, as the Diamonds rampaged to another 12-goal win to all but wrap up the Constellation Cup for a fourth-straight year.

It was the fightback the Silver Ferns knew was coming but were powerless to stop.
After they "poked the bear" with a shock 53-51 win over the Diamonds in Wednesday night's second test, Australian returned to the form shown in their 68-56 demolition in last weekend's opener in Sydney.

They were brutal on defence, clinical through the midcourt and calm and composed in the shooting circle.

The result extended the Silver Ferns' winless run on home soil to seven matches, having not recorded a win at home against the Diamonds since the opening test of the 2013 Constellation Cup in Invercargill.

The Ferns had high hopes of breaking their drought in front of a sold-out crowd at Vector Arena after their efforts in Launceston.

But they were unable to find the same spark they had in game two, as their attack end wilted under a ferocious defensive effort from the Diamonds, led by Sharni Layton and Gabi Simpson.

At the other end, Caitlin Bassett was once again the star of the show for Australia, breaking her all-time highest tally for the second time this season. Incredibly, Bassett's individual tally of 55 goals was higher than the Ferns' collective score of 50.

Ferns coach Janine Southby said the most disappointing aspect of her side's performance was their failure to match the Diamonds' increased physical intensity having highlighted it as an area in which they may be targeted.

"They really stepped up the pressure on us on the body and I don't think we were able to cope with that at times," she said. "That takes a bit of a toll as you go through a game.
"I think we lost our connections on attack. You could see at times we either got on top of one another or got really isolated so there's certainly some work to do in that area."

The Ferns will now head to Invercargill knowing it will take a miraculous result to wrestle the Constellation Cup away from Australia.

While they are still a chance of levelling the series in next week's finale, their hopes of taking out the title for the first time since 2012 are minute. A drawn series will be decided by goal percentage and, given the Diamonds hold a healthy 22-goal points differential, it would take a record win from New Zealand to steal the Cup.

After starts ranging from horrid to terrible in the opening two tests, the Ferns were much sharper from the opening whistle tonight to ensure the Australians didn't get a jump on them early.

The score was deadlocked at 13-13 at the first break, but as the match wore on the Diamonds' defensive pressure, and possibly the gruelling Constellation Cup schedule, began to take its toll on the home side.

Australia coach Lisa Alexander said she was pleased with her side's patient approach as the Diamonds outscored the Ferns by four goals for each of the final three quarters.

"We were a little bit more consistent about grafting away at our work and that's what I liked," she said. "We picked the times to actually make sure and work the ball around rather than biffing the ball into [Bassett] when she has two players on her. We just played all those moments in a more consistent and considered manner."


- NZ Herald

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