Diamonds cut Silver Ferns to shreds in Sydney

TOUGH COMPETITORS: Catherine Cox of the Diamonds and Katrina Grant of the Silver Ferns compete for the ball.
TOUGH COMPETITORS: Catherine Cox of the Diamonds and Katrina Grant of the Silver Ferns compete for the ball.

The Silver Ferns' historic Constellation Cup success was totally eclipsed yesterday as Australia's galaxy of stars found perfect alignment in a record-setting 68-48 romp.

The world champion Diamonds indicated the gulf between netball's leading nations was widening as they racked up an ominous winning margin at Allphones Arena in Sydney.

Ruthless from the moment they stole possession from the Ferns' opening centre pass, Australia look likely to add the Quad Series spoils to their world championship after their only challengers were thoroughly outplayed.

Australia's 68 goals is a new all-time high since trans-Tasman competition began in 1938, overtaking the 67 they amassed in 1992.

The losing margin was also New Zealand's heaviest since they copped a 23-goal hammering in Newcastle 12 years ago.

Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu gambled by leaving legendary goal shoot Irene van Dyk and captain Casey Williams out of her starting line-up, but by the time they were summoned at the start of the second quarter, the scale of Diamonds' triumph was the only imponderable.

"We played a new line-up to start with, it was always going to be a risk but I didn't expect it to be such a big risk," Taumaunu admitted after witnessing the worst performance of her tenure.

Her intention to test the depth of her squad and plan for life without Van Dyk only proved the Ferns are as reliant on the 40-something shooter as ever.

Van Dyk missed only one of her 29 attempts, but her accuracy was irrelevant as the Australian full-court pressure enabled Catherine Cox, Susan Pratley and Caitlin Bassett to line up the hoop 23 more times than their counterparts.

"We've got quite a bit of work to do if we haven't got Irene on the court," Taumaunu lamented, "but it's something we've got to build."

Australia monopolised the vital statistics, notably turnovers where they secured 27 to the Silver Ferns 16 - another critical point of difference.

Buoyed by a more than 13,600-strong crowd, the world No 1 team had built an impregnable 10-goal lead and effortlessly doubled it by the end of an encounter that suggested Norma Plummer's successor Lisa Alexander is getting to grips with combating the Kiwis after the Constellation Cup was relinquished last month.

It will take a remarkable turnaround for New Zealand to benefit from home ground advantage for the remainder of the schedule.

They must beat England in Wellington on Thursday - and South Africa in seven days - by greater scorelines than Australia manage and then avenge yesterday's defeat in Hamilton on November 1.

Australia's coach was delighted with the result. "I spent the last two and a half minutes just sitting, taking it in and enjoying it," said Alexander, who sensed the afternoon was panning out for her side which won the opening quarter against New Zealand for the first time in her reign.

Alexander's only concern is captain Natalie von Bertouch, who may not travel with the remainder of the squad today after she rolled an ankle.

Her replacement at centre, Kim Green, is also nursing a foot injury.

In a positive sign for New Zealand, Williams got through a confidence boosting 45 minutes without any problems with her fragile knees.

"I'm just taking baby steps. I've had a few frustrating days but to come through three quarters with no pain, that's a positive," she said. 

Fairfax Media