1.12pm - BY SHARON LUNDY
NEW ZEALAND 49 AUSTRALIA 47
KINGSTON - New Zealand have finally shaken their big-game bridesmaid role, wresting the world netball championship title from Australia 49-47 in another gripping clash here tonight.
Centre Temepara Clark was the stand-out player in a battle which went to the wire, despite being stood down for two goals late in the match for persistent infringing.
Silver Ferns coach Ruth Aitken's top line-up took the court to huge crowd support; Vilimaina Davu at goal keep, Sheryl Clarke goal defence, Lesley Nicol wing defence, Clark, captain Anna Rowberry wing attack, Belinda Colling goal attack and Irene van Dyk goal shoot.
For Australia, Liz Ellis lined up at goal keep, captain Kathryn Harby-Williams at goal defence, Pete Scholz wing defence, Rebecca Sanders centre, Natasha Chokljat wing attack, Sharelle McMahon goal attack and Cynna Neele goal shoot.
Of the 14 starters, five Australians and three New Zealanders had faced off in the last world championships final in Christchurch in 1999 -- a game New Zealand led by six going into the final quarter but lost by one goal in the final minute.
The Silver Ferns had a nervous start and the Australians quickly capitalised on a pass to nowhere to post the first goal.
McMahon, who calmly shot the winning goal in Christchurch, and Cynna Neele initially coped well with the intense pressure from Davu and Clarke and Australia were soon 8-3 up.
However, New Zealand ground away at the deficit, helped by some stunning intercepts from Davu and steady shooting from van Dyk and Colling, to take the lead with 4-1/2 minutes to go to finish the quarter 14-10 ahead.
The Silver Ferns earned their finals berth with a 56-37 win over home team Jamaica yesterday. With no home team to support, the rampant home crowd turned their support to New Zealand.
Australia came back firing for the second quarter to sneak in front but New Zealand held on as the battle intensified.
Australia were determined to send off Harby-Williams, Sanders, reserve Nicole Richardson and coach Jill McIntosh in style. All four retired at the end of the game.
But the effects of Davu and Clarke's superb defence showed as McMahon and Neele started to choke and by halftime New Zealand were 27-22 ahead.
Clark put her body on the line, at one point slamming to the ground as she tried to tip the ball on the circle edge. Minutes later she was on the ground at the opposite circle having snatched an intercept but not having space to land.
Clark was the star of the third quarter, coming from nowhere to grab intercepts and put her team 37-34 up going into the final 15 minutes.
Australia had the better of the third quarter but McIntosh opted for two changes, replacing Harby-Williams with Janine Illitch and Neele with Catherine Cox.
Clark's unerring determination earned her the umpire's attention and she was warned for persistent infringing on the circle edge before being stood down for three goals with New Zealand ahead 40-38.
Australia capitalised to equal before Clark returned to a standing ovation with New Zealand just one up, snatching an intercept within seconds of her return to send the crowd into a frenzy.
The game continued neck and neck but this time New Zealand hung on to take the win.
Clark said winning the final was like nothing she'd ever felt before, while team veteran Lesley Nicol said the wait had been far too long.
"It's absolutely bloody brilliant," Nicol said.
"We've had the bronze, we've had silver, now we've got the gold."