Diamonds wrap up Constellation Cup against Silver Ferns

Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images

The Silver Ferns showed plenty of guts but finished without any glory, edged 49-45 on Thursday by Australia in the fourth and final Constellation Cup Test in Invercargill.

The Diamonds were already assured of retaining the trophy for the sixth time in seven years, after winning the first and third Tests by 12-goal margins.

But the Kiwis rediscovered some of the fighting spirit which won them the second Test 53-51, closing to within two with a late turnover and less than a minute remaining.

They couldn't maintain the run to the final whistle, leaving coach Janine Southby regretting lost chances.

"I felt we had opportunities, and we could have actually taken it.

"Unfortunately, we just didn't have the connections on attack and the confidence to let the ball go forward at times, and that really hurt us."

After bossing the midcourt in their 62-50 third Test win, the Australians were forced to work much harder at Stadium Southland.

Retiring Diamonds captain Clare McMeniman, who partnered goal keeper Sharni Layton in the Australian circle, said the relatively low-scoring match was testament to strong defence from both teams.

"It was a very defensive game at both ends of the court and there were passages where the ball was coming up and back with no goals scored," she said.

"The defensive pressure the Silver Ferns put on tonight was pretty phenomenal. They were having a fly at the ball, confusing space, and they were doing a great job."

But for much of the first quarter, it looked as though the Diamonds were going to pick up where they left off in Auckland.

Sharni Layton and Clare McMeniman shut down the circle, and pressure outside from Gabi Simpson and Kim Ravaillion forced a disjointed feed into Silver Ferns shooters Bailey Mes and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.

The Kiwis battled to stay in touch as Caitlin Bassett and Gretel Tippett shot 100 per cent to give the Australians a 13-9 lead after 15 minutes.

A much tighter Silver Ferns through-court defence slowed down the Diamonds' quick feed into the towering Bassett in the second quarter, with goal keeper Anna Harrison proving particularly effective in generating turnover ball with a series of deflections.

Centre Shannon Francois and wing defence Laura Langman ramped up the defensive pressure on the circle edge, but the Australians proved patient in resetting their attack and opened out to a six-goal lead.

However, the introduction of Maria Tutaia for Selby-Rickit kickstarted something of a renaissance for the Kiwis, who reduced the Australian lead to 22-19 at halftime.

Tutaia, still finding form and fitness after a two-month injury break, shot eight from 10 for the spell, her trademark long bomb proving remarkably effective after such a long break.

The Diamonds also made a switch at goal attack midway through the second quarter, but Natalie Medhurst proved ineffective, and Gretel Tippett returned for the third spell.

Bassett again shouldered the bulk of the shooting duties, sinking 13 from 13 as the Australians took the spell 14-13 to lead 36-32 at the three-quarter mark.

The Kiwis shared the final quarter 13-13 with the Diamonds, scrapping all the way to the final whistle but unable to generate the crucial final turnover.