Silver Ferns win Constellation Cup series

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 21:27 20/09/2012
Silver Ferns v Australia
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Silver Ferns players celebrate after the second netball test match against Australia.

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Call off the emergency water supplies, the drought is finally over.

With a "nerve-racking" 50-49 victory against Australia in Auckland tonight, the Silver Ferns created history, banishing eight years without a series success; seven years without consecutive wins over their trans-Tasman foe.

The last time New Zealand achieved that feat they went on to record a clean-sweep over the, then, Norma Plummer-coached Australians, back in 2005. They can now chase a repeat.

It went down to the final seconds once again, but the Ferns etched their name and sipped from the Constellation Cup for first time. But, boy, did they make it tense.

"It shows we can withstand phenomenal pressure. That's a shift that our group hasn't done in the past," stand-in captain Laura Langman said.

Down by 12 goals at halftime, the Aussies launched a typically spirited fightback to almost force a decider in Christchurch on Sunday.

But veteran Diamonds shooter Catherine Cox, who became the fourth Australian to reach the 100-cap milestone, had her celebrations ruined.

"It is probably one of the best Ferns line-ups that's ever played,"

Cox claimed. "There's not a weakness in that side anymore. That's not always been the case."

After shooting 15/18 in the first two quarters, Cox was benched at halftime for Catlin Bassett, who missed the defining shot under the hoop in the last act of the match, which could have stolen a draw.

"It's obviously not her fault," Cox said, in defence of Bassett. "We've all been there. You can't let the result of the game go to one person.

"The others made errors while we were out there. We had to remind her of that. She's won the game many times for us."

Although the Ferns were outscored by seven goals in a third quarter meltdown, it is clear New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu has made her mark on the national team. Credit must go to her for this rare achievement, not that she was overly chuffed.

"To be honest it wasn't the ending we wanted," Taumaunu said. "Great to show the composure to hold on for the win, but would have preferred it was a little less nerve-racking towards the end. The third quarter was the worst. I don't think I'm ever going to be completely satisfied."

The Ferns played with encouraging freedom in the first half.

Shooters Maria Tutaia (26/29) and the evergreen Irene van Dyk (24/26) were again superb - and Katrina Grant was a menace in defence.

There was no fear factor, rather a collective belief they could stop the rot.

Passionately roared on by a record New Zealand netball crowd of 8,800 at Vector Arena, the Ferns produced a near-perfect first quarter, leading 15-6, despite the absence of inspirational captain Casey Williams, who again watched on with a knee injury.

The Ferns were determined to build on their opening triumph in Melbourne.

Right through court, it was slick; pretty to watch in full flight, although it did not last.

The Aussies had been trash talking of a physical onslaught, but attempts to rattle the Ferns were cast aside. The visitors were shell-shocked for 30 minutes, down 31-19 at the break.

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Not until Australian coach Lisa Alexander, in her first game in charge on New Zealand soil, made a desperate bid to spark her side with four changes at halftime - including benching captain Natalie von Bertouch - did the world champions find their feet. They cut the lead to just five goals at the final turn to set up a frantic finish.

The crowd took to chomping their nails as the Ferns' all too familiar frailties reared their ugly head.

Australia came within two points, but Bassett (19/23) couldn't finish the job.

- Fairfax Media

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