SLICK, gritty, tenacious and classy — traditional qualities of the Diamonds but attributes their netball nemesis New Zealand produced on Sunday to bag their biggest win over the world No. 1 Australian side since 2015.
The Silver Ferns rocked Australia’s world in Invercargill to post a humbling 57-47 triumph which cost the Diamonds their Quad Series defence and ended their bid to navigate the 2017 international netball scene undefeated.
“There were just too many errors on our behalf,’’ said new captain Caitlin Bassett.
Coach Lisa Alexander’s plan was always to use the Quad Series to blood players, add experience to the resume of others and test new combinations with the Commonwealth Games early next year.
But it was also her intention to defend the title the Diamonds last won earlier this year in England.
But in the most anticipated netball battle of the year the Ferns showed being barred from playing in the Australian Super Netball competition has not worked against them one bit with the New Zealand side schooling the young Australians on Sunday.
Australia were left stunned by the intensity of the Silver Ferns at the start of the match and at the end, paying a high price for an explosive penalty count and series of basic errors.
In a game they failed to lead for even a second, the Australians trailed by eight at the end of the first quarter in a shock opening result for the world No. 1 side.
One of the most inexperienced circle defence units to take the court for the Diamonds in recent times — Courtney Bruce and April Brandley with less than 20 caps between them — struggled to contain New Zealand shooters Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Bailey Mes who scored 13 from 14 and five from five respectively in the first 15 minutes.
The Ferns then extended their lead to nine straight after the break before the Diamonds came back to within four briefly before again losing ground to trail 31-24 at halftime.
At halftime Australia had incurred 10 more penalties than their hosts and had spent 20 per cent less time in possession — an almost unheard of statistic for the Diamonds.
Shooting duo Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip replaced Caitlin Bassett and Gretel Tippett in a third quarter where Bruce incurred the wrath of the umpires for her continuous penalties and the Ferns leapt away to an 11-goal lead.
At the end it was a 10-goal blowout for the Australians who must now regroup quickly for the October Constellation Cup series against the New Zealanders.
Earlier South Africa produced another upset with their 54-51 victory over England in Invercargill.
New Zealand 57 (Te Paea Selby-Rickit: 35/41, Bailey Mes: 17/18, Maia Wilson: 5/5) Australia 47 (Caitlin Bassett: 22/24, Gretel Tippett: 4/5, Tegan Philip: 11/12, Caitlin Thwaites: 10/11) Quarter scores: 1Q: 18-10, HT: 31-24, 3Q: 44-33.