New Zealand 55
A tearful Casey Kopua has praised the fighting qualities of her Silver Ferns side in tonight's World Cup final. But right now all the team will be focused on is the heartbreak of missing out on another major title to the Australian Diamonds.
Chasing their third consecutive world title in front of a home crowd, the determined Diamonds took it to the Ferns from the outset. They were clinical, composed, and polished - everything the young New Zealand side was not in the opening spell.
Clearly affected by the pressure of the big occasion, the Ferns made a jittery start with Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia struggling to assert themselves in the shooting circle, while Grace Rasmussen spilt a couple of early passes. The accurate Australians made sure they capitalised on every turnover at the other end of the court, patiently working the ball through the Ferns midcourt zone that troubled them in pool play earlier in the tournament and into supershooter Caitlin Bassett.
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Over the next three quarters the Ferns did everything they could to claw their way back into the match. They won the final three periods, but it was not enough to overcome the impressive start from the Australians, who took out the match 58-55.
Kopua said while the loss hurts, she takes heart in the fact her side did not give up when they put themselves in such a difficult position early on.
"I guess nobody likes to lose ... but just the fight we had. In the first quarter we were down by quite a bit and to bring that back and you can see in people's eyes that they really wanted it, that was a little tick for me because if they had of put their heads down or given up, that would have been really disappointing, but that never happened at any time," said Kopua.
"I just have enjoyed seeing the girls grow. No one would have expected us to be where we were today and I think individuals have learnt a lot about themselves.
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu said her young side did not cope well with the pressure of the big occasion early on, and that proved the difference.
"We took a while to settle into our work and we didn't get any gain ball defensively to make up for a nervous front end," said Taumaunu.
"They were over-excited and over-anxious and went away from the gameplan which was enough for Australia to get a lead we couldn't pull back," she said.