Silver Ferns hold out in thriller
The Silver Ferns have held off a blistering Australian comeback to win the second netball Test 50-49 and take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
The victory in Auckland gave New Zealand the Constellation Cup for the first time in the trophy’s three-season history and also their first series success over the Diamonds in eight years.
Australia had a chance to tie the match with seconds to go but the player who did so much to bring them back into the game, shooter Caitlin Bassett, missed from close range.
The Ferns had appeared to be cruising after the first two quarters on Thursday night.
However, the introduction of Bassett, who also had an impact when she came on for the final quarter of Australia’s 54-52 first Test defeat in Melbourne, swung the game around.
Australia steadily ate into New Zealand’s lead to set up a grandstand finish.
The Silver Ferns’ early advantage was built on some good defensive pressure, with the trio of Katrina Grant, Leana de Bruin and Anna Harrison all proving a nuisance.
It helped New Zealand to kick out to a 15-6 lead at quarter time.
At the other end of the court, New Zealand’s shooters continued with their sharp performance in the opening Test.
Irene Van Dyk landed 24 from 26, while player of the match for the second Test in a row, Maria Tutaia, shot at 26 from 29, many of her goals coming from distance.
Bassett ended with 19 from 23 and she was well assisted by Natalie Medhurst, who sunk all 15 of her attempts.
The result put a dampener on a personal milestone for Diamonds shooter Catherine Cox, who became the fourth Australian to bring up a century of caps.
New Zealand-born Cox was replaced at halftime after scoring 15 from 18.
A sell-out crowd of 8800 turned out at Vector Arena, making it the biggest attendance for a netball match in New Zealand.
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu kept the same seven that played through in Melbourne, with skipper Casey Williams again ruled out because of a knee injury.
Australian coach Lisa Alexander made two changes to her starting line-up, with Erin Bell at goal attack for Medhurst, while Laura Geitz came in for Bianca Chatfield at goal keep.
With her team down by 12 goals at half-time, Alexander responded with changes that included taking off Cox and bringing on Bassett.
Working well in tandem with Medhurst, Bassett helped to spur the visitors to a fast start in the third quarter.
A rejigged midcourt also made a difference as the Diamonds made their big comeback.
The final Test is in Christchurch on Sunday.© AFP 2013