Silver Ferns 42
The Silver Ferns have rounded out a horror Constellation Cup series with their worst performance of the year, as Australia romped to a series whitewash in Sydney tonight.
The Diamonds already had the transtasman trophy locked away for another year - their fifth straight - heading into the finale, leaving the Ferns with only pride to play for, but even that went begging.
With the exception of a rollicking 5-0 start to the game, the New Zealand side lacked leadership, direction and creativity on attack, delivering another hapless and error-ridden display.
The 16-goal scoreline continued an alarming trend for the Ferns, with the rookie Australian side's winning margin significantly increasing with each game.
New Zealand's decline over the Constellation Cup is even more disappointing when you consider just last month they pulled off a 57-47 win over Australia to take out the Quad Series.
The result, which saw the Ferns claim their first series win over Australia since 2012, instilled a quiet confidence and belief in Janine Southby's new-look line-up. But the Diamonds, who were facing huge pressure coming into this series, have ruthlessly chipped away at that confidence over the past 10 days to claim the mental edge heading into Commonwealth Games year.
Silver Ferns skipper Katrina Grant said her side need to ask some tough questions of themselves over the summer break.
"This series has been really disappointing for us. It's going to be a really hard summer," she said.
"If we don't learn from this there's no point in us being here. We promise to come back and be better."
With the series essentially a trial for the Commonwealth Games, the Ferns performances will surely force Southby and co to rethink some of their selections. New Zealand's midcourt has been particularly ineffective against Australia, with Shannon Francois and Gina Crampton struggling for consistency, ensuring calls to bring back star centre Laura Langman will only grow louder.
The 141-test veteran has been ruled ineligible for New Zealand selection after opting to play in the Australian domestic competition.
Under pressure to produce something special in Sydney, the Ferns made a blistering start to the match scoring the first five goals as Temalisi Fakahokotau made her presence felt early on in her first start against the Diamonds, forcing turnovers on Australia's first two possessions.
But the period of New Zealand dominance proved shortlived as the Diamonds answered with a run of five of their own, before taking the lead mid-way through the spell.
The Ferns rediscovered their flow later in the quarter, with the interplay between Sam Sinclair and Te Paea Selby-Rickit particularly slick. Selby-Rickit netted the last goal of the quarter to give the Ferns a 13-12 lead at the first break - the first time they have held a quartertime lead all series.
Australia soon took control of the contest however, with the Diamonds defence using the break to clue up on how to shut down Selby-Rickit, who contributed all of the Ferns' goals in the first quarter.
Once Selby-Rickit was contained, the Ferns attack end was left horribly exposed.
Bailey Mes, who was playing in her 50th test match, was benched mid-way through the spell after netting just one of her three attempts at goal. The athletic shooter unusually lacked energy and did not look comfortable at any point in her 21 minutes on court, struggling to get her hands on the ball.
The benching of Mes saw Maria Tutaia introduced into the game after being demoted from the starting line-up on the back of a poor performance in Wednesday night's 12-goal loss. Tutaia made a promising start, producing a blistering drive along the baseline to net her first goal, but that proved be a rare spark for the New Zealand attack.
By halftime the Diamonds had taken a 26-22 lead, despite having a few attacking problems of their own.
The surprise introduction of Caitlin Thwaites in place of Caitlin Bassett late in the second period helped open up the Australian attack end, with Thwaites bringing more movement to the circle to blunt some of the impact of Ferns defender Temalisi Fakahokotau.
A 14-9 third quarter effort saw the Australia side out to a 40-31 lead heading into the final turn, and from there the Ferns' fight seemed to abandon them completely as a determined Diamonds outfit finished their season off on a high, claiming just their second clean-sweep in eight years of Constellation Cup battles.