Silver Ferns win netball gold in extra time

BY MATT RICHENS
Last updated 03:42 15/10/2010

Silver Ferns win Gold in Delhi

Lauren Nourse
Getty Images
THREADING THE NEEDLE: Australian midcourter Lauren Nourse forces a pass through the arm of Silver Ferns defender Joline Henry during the gold medal netball game at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

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When Ruth Aitken named the Silver Ferns starting line-up for the Commonwealth Games final against Australia, Anna Scarlett couldn't have dreamt she'd play such a big role.

Maybe that's why she was so elated when the Kiwis beat Australia 66-64 in what will likely be remembered as the best game of international netball ever played.

After two periods of extra time, a winner could still not be decided so the teams continued to play until the Ferns had their two goal margin.

It was the second time the Games' final has gone to extra time after Australia beat New Zealand 57-55 after extra time in Manchester.

Aitken said self belief had been the key to winning.

"I think probably in the end it was belief and where this team has come to," she said.

"They absolutely believe in each other and in the end it's just sheer doggedness really. They did not want to give it away, I felt very proud."

Scarlett started on the bench and was restricted to cheerleading duties until she was called on to play hero at halftime.

Scarlett, and Liana Barrett-Chase, replaced veterans Joline Henry and Temepara George.

Aitken chose commonsense over sentiment to make the changes as her team were 23-20 down midway through the gold medal game.

Scarlett grabbed two intercepts immediately after coming on the court and was the catalyst in the Silver Ferns turning a three goal deficit into a two goal advantage by three quarter time.

She plucked another at the start of the final spell as the Kiwis stretched their lead to as many as seven.

And as quickly as she came on, she was off again. An injured finger looking like it had put paid to her final.

The Ferns were up 40-34 at that stage and looked sure to have defended their gold medal won in Melbourne.

But without Scarlett's height, the Diamonds were able to feed their shooters easier and bridged the gap, eventually forcing two periods of seven minute extra time.

Both teams had chances to win the game in regulation, but two of the most experienced players on court, Irene van Dyk and Catherine Cox, both missed in the final minute.

With extra time came the return of Scarlett.

The Diamonds again struggled to feed their strong shooters and the Ferns got out to a two goal lead.

After the second period of extra time, the scores were still locked, this time at 59-59 meaning the teams continue to play until one side had a two goal margin.

Cox again had a chance to win it but missed a midrange shot.

After eight extra minutes 82 in total, Maria Tutaia - who had taken the Ferns' last six shots, snatched the win for New Zealand with a long rang bomb to break the Australian hearts.

Tutaia was magnificent in the clutch, landing those series of crucial shots until the final one brought a boilover of emotion and relief for New Zealand - and grief for Australia.

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Tutaia feared she might not be able to carry on much longer.

"I'm just so stoked, my calves were cramping up, that's why I was getting a bit worried," she said.

"I'll tell you what, I can't even talk. We all came together, we knew it was going to be a game like this, I think the game went more than an hour-and-a-half."

Scarlett was the first there to congratulate her.

- Stuff

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