Australia have held off a fast-finishing New Zealand in the Quad Series to set up a decider against England in London.
Lisa Alexander has challenged her understrength Diamonds to lift one more time at the Quad Series in a deciding Test against hosts England.
The world’s two premier teams meet in London on Monday (AEDT) in a possible precursor to the World Cup final in July but both will have to shake off gruelling encounters 24 hours earlier, including a shock defeat for the English.
World champions Australia staved off a storming New Zealand fightback to win 53-50 before Commonwealth Games champions England were stunned 48-45 by world No.5 South Africa.
The Diamonds never trailed against the Silver Ferns but came under intense pressure when their early 10-goal lead was reduced to just two midway through the final quarter.
Coach Alexander was delighted her team didn’t buckle in the absence of captain Caitlin Bassett and vice captain Gabi Simpson.
“A question was put to us and they showed the true Aussie spirit out there, lots of guts and determination,” Alexander said.
“They love representing their country, we hope everyone’s proud back at home.”
Stand-in skipper Caitlyn Thwaites led with accuracy at goal shooter, landing 31 of her 32 shots, while second-half replacement Gretel Tippett slotted all 12 of her attempts at goal attack.
Tippett, the standout performer in Australia’s opening 62-45 win over South Africa, was a surprise figure on the starting bench but her services were required after Steph Wood struggled with her radar (10/17).
The Diamonds responded to Alexander’s call to end to their trend of sluggish starts, powering 14-6 clear at the first break and maintaining that margin at halftime.
The second half was Australia’s turn to struggle in attack, against a Kiwi defence marshalled by veteran goal defence Casey Kopua and skipper Laura Langman, the first player to represent any country in 150 Tests.
Alexander wasn’t surprised by the challenge posed by the rebuilding Silver Ferns, who succumbed 54-41 to England in their opener.
“It’s always nerve wracking against the Kiwis, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.
“They’ve got great players like Casey Kopua who can pull things out as she did.”
South Africa are making big strides under former Australian coach Norma Plummer, whose team have emerged as potential World Cup dark horses.
England coach Tracey Neville said her team showed an alarming lack of composure in a physical encounter, having fought back from a half-time deficit to claim a third-quarter lead before fading late.