Fast start fires Ferns to win
Australian defender Bianca Chatfield has vowed the Diamonds will come back better and stronger after last night's 55-51 loss to New Zealand in the opening match of the Constellation Cup series in Invercargill.
Chatfield, who earned her 50th test cap 12 years after making her international debut when she replaced a penalty-riddled Rebecca Bulley at goal defence after the first quarter, was part of an improved second half from the Diamonds as they came close to pulling back an 11-goal deficit in the final quarter.
"It was good for us that we did make changes and those that came out did a great job. I don't think we lost anything when we brought people on. It makes for an exciting series. We are ready to go, we are ready to win the next four." The Silver Ferns will look back on a game where they were in control of the scoreboard, but were always aware that a Diamonds comeback was just around the corner.
After New Zealand led 19-14 after the first quarter, the Australians trailed by only two goals at halftime and threatened to take the lead midway through the third quarter.
While the Ferns jumped away again and won the quarter 14-8, the Australians got back to within three goals in the final minutes of the game.
"That's one thing we can take out of it, the fact that we just kept fighting for the whole game," Chatfield said.
"It was just our little mistakes throughout that we can eliminate.
It's up to us to cherish possession of the ball. It's four goals and you know these games are going to be fought to the end."
Silver Ferns centre Laura Langman was superb in the first of what promises to be a cracking five-game series, while the indefatigable Irene van Dyk was strong under the hoop and Maria Tutaia's long shooting was exceptional.
Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu said there was still a long way to go in the series.
"It was a good start but it's a five game series so it was good to get the first game under out belt, that's all," she said.
The Australian fightback was to be expected, Taumaunu said.
"We missed a couple of shots and that can turn a game. We were lucky we had a bit of a buffer."
Taumaunu said there was still work to be done in the wing attack position where both Courtney Tairi, who started in her international debut, and Anna Thompson had a half each.
Joline Henry was impressive in her international comeback after missing 2012 to start a family.
Australian coach Lisa Alexander was disappointed with the number of penalties her team attracted, something she'd tried to alleviate by talking to the umpires before the game.
Diamonds goal shoot Caitlin Bassett was restricted to only two goals in the third quarter, but returned a perfect 31 goals from as many attempts.
It wasn't a memorable night for Laura Geitz, captaining Australia for the first time and replaced in the final quarter by Sharni Layton.
The next test is in Auckland on Thursday night.
AT A GLANCE
Quarter scores (NZ first): 19-14, 31-29, 45-37, 55-51. Starting lineups: New Zealand: Katrina Grant (GK), Casey Kopua (GD), Joline Henry (WD), Laura Langman (C), Courtney Tairi (WA), Maria Tutaia (GA), Irene van Dyk (GS). Australia: Laura Geitz (GK), Rebecca Bulley (GD), Renae Hallinan (WD), Kim Green (C), Madison Browne (WA), Erin Bell (GA), Caitlin Bassett (GS).
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