Silver Ferns lose to Australian Diamonds in Netball Quad Series final

By Contributor

A third-quarter lapse proved costly as the Silver Ferns fell 56-50 to a strong finishing Australian Diamonds in the Netball Quad Series final in Cape Town this morning.

The Silver Ferns were unable to reverse the result of round-robin play when they lost to the same opponents by two goals, Australia going on to clinch a seventh title since the inception of the Quad Series in 2016.

The Silver Ferns couldn’t have asked for a better start but struggled to maintain that impressive early form when ground down by a more consistent and accurate Diamonds.

However, all was not lost for the team, which now heads home to fine-tune for the main event, the Netball World Cup at the same International Convention Centre venue in July, after the outstanding Grace Nweke was awarded overall player and shooter of the Quad Series while the impressive Kate Heffernan picked up midcourter of the tournament award.   

"All the teams will see the benefit from being here, not only from testing the venue and the logistics, all that sort of stuff but this has been the last hit-out before we go back into our domestic competition,’’ Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Tauraua said.

"So, this has been really important that all the players know what their plan is coming out of here, where our gaps are as a team, where we need to improve, not only as a playing base but also as a coaching group to try and find that magical ingredient.

‘Massive tick’

"Although it was disappointing to lose the final, I’m really happy, once again, that we’ve been able to pull ourselves together quite fast, considering we’ve had a few changes in our squad. It’s just been a massive tick to be here.’’

Experience was a feature for both teams in recognising the significance of the occasion with the returning defensive duo of Jane Watson (goalkeeper) and Karin Burger (wing defence) marking their returns from pregnancy and injury, respectively with inclusion in the Silver Ferns starting line-up.

Influential shooting duo Cara Koenen and Steph Wood spearheaded a potent Australian Diamonds side.

Both teams made picture-perfect starts with their flow, the first opportunity to gain a turnover not coming until 10 minutes of a goal-for-goal stand-off had passed.

With her attackers executing pin-point quick-release passes to dominate shooter Nweke, the Silver Ferns skipped out to a handy 19-15 lead at the first break. In a high-scoring opening, the Silver Ferns enjoyed 21 attempts at goal compared to the Diamonds' 15.

There was the expected reply on the resumption from the Diamonds, smothering defence and the slick interplay and accuracy from Koenen and Wood ensuring there was no respite for the Silver Ferns.

Close fight

An intercept from hard-working wing defence Ash Brazill and disruptive play from goalkeeper Sarah Klau helped the Diamonds level up the scores midway through, the close nature of proceedings remaining unabated.

Turnover opportunities were slim both ways, the Silver Ferns forced to show plenty of patience in carrying the ball forward but keeping their noses just in front when leading 31-30 at the main break.

With both teams happy with how they were tracking, no changes were made for the third stanza but with the game livening up, the Silver Ferns’ consistency dipped.

A three-goal start for the Diamonds changed the momentum, the livewire Brazill continuing to be an effective spoiler while composure and accuracy remained a key feature for the world’s No 1 side.

Rattled into error, the Silver Ferns struggled to contain a 10-3 run from the Australians, the goals drying up when they were restricted to a single-digit return of nine goals for the 15 minutes as Australia took a solid grip on proceedings when leading 44-40 at the last break.  

Shooting stats

Silver Ferns:
Grace Nweke 39/45 (86.7%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 11/11 (100%)
Cara Koenen 33/34 (97.1%)
Steph Wood 23/28 (82.1%)
MVP: Steph Wood