Australian Diamonds thrash NZ’s Silver Ferns in Constellation Cup
Australia has taken the Constellation Cup to a deciding fourth game after a barnstorming 62-47 win over New Zealand in Melbourne.
The Diamonds pushed aside simmering sponsorship controversy to revel in their first home Test match in more than 1000 days and were welcomed back by a sold-out John Caine Arena crowd.
After two losses in New Zealand, the big game three victory means they can win the trophy with a win in the final Test on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich rolled the selection dice at both ends and came up trumps, starting shooter Sophie Garbin for the first time in the four-Test series.
She also recalled feisty Test veteran defender Jo Weston for the first time in the trans-Tasman series.
Garbin, who had only played one quarter in the previous two games, played as a holding shooter allowing goal attack Steph Wood to roam the circle with the twin-pronged attack causing headaches for the Silver Ferns.
Weston didn’t take a backward step in defence with New Zealand skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio replaced in the second quarter by the taller Te Paea Selby-Rickit as the Kiwis scrambled.
The Australians got off to a strong start and led 15-11 after the first quarter, with keeper Courtney Bruce keeping a lid on Silver Ferns shooting weapon Grace Nweke.
New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua continued to tinker with her line-up but the Diamonds extended the margin to 10 points midway through the second stanza before settling for a 31-22 half-time lead.
The margin closed to five points midway through the third quarter, sounding alarm bells for Australia after they fell away at the same time in game two.
But this time the Diamonds put their foot down and punished the Silver Ferns in the final stanza.
Australian skipper Liz Watson had to front the media on match eve to answer questions about the players’ hesitancy over the Hancock Prospecting sponsorship but was focused only on victory in Melbourne.
The wing attack was untouchable through the midcourt with a stunning 57 feeds into the goal circle, with the best effort from the Kiwis being Maddy Gordon’s 17.