Horror second quarter sinks Silver Ferns in Adelaide
Six months out from the Commonwealth Games, the Silver Ferns have hit crisis mode.
Australia locked away the Constellation Cup for a fifth straight year, winning 55-43 in Adelaide on Wednesday night to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the best-of-four series.
New Zealand will have just pride to play for in the final test in Sydney on Saturday.
Any hope of a Silver Ferns' victory quickly disappeared in the second quarter, where they unravelled to fall behind 30-19 by halftime.
New Zealand were outscored 18-9 in a miserable 15 minutes of netball, where Australia seized control of the match.
It was similar problems that plagued the Silver Ferns in the opening two tests in New Zealand with careless turnovers, 25 which came in the first half alone, crippling their chances.
New Zealand hauled themselves back into the contest after halftime, winning the third quarter 15-8 to trim Australia's lead to four (38-34) entering the final quarter.
"I felt like that third quarter was where we had the game, we just let it off in that fourth quarter and Aussie came out and pretty much nailed that fourth quarter," Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant bemoaned.
The Silver Ferns' attacking issues resurfaced in the last term with Australia going on a 7-1 spurt to kill off the spectacle.
A rare New Zealand positive was the amount of defensive ball gained with Grant stepping up her play, especially in the first half, after some quiet performances in the first two matches.
"We haven't had many gains over the past two tests, and [in game three] I think we had more [defensive] turnovers in the first half, so that's pleasing for us, but we've got to look after it as well."
Australia flew out of the blocks in the second quarter after a sloppy first term, going on a 12-4 run, to jump out to a 24-14 advantage.
The Diamonds were ruthless on attack, capitalising off New Zealand's mistakes and making it count through shooters Caitlin Bassett and Steph Wood.
The Silver Ferns were careless with their passing, regularly throwing the ball away under intense Australian defensive pressure.
New Zealand committed a staggering 25 turnovers in the first half alone, while Australia were reckless by their high standards, handing the ball over 19 times.
Clearly unhappy with what her team were producing, Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby rung the changes midway through the second quarter.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Kayla Cullen and Temalisi Fakahokotau were all injected into the action, while Shannon Francois shifted into wing attack and Samantha Sinclair moved into centre.
One couldn't help wonder if the Silver Ferns should have made the changes earlier given Australia's dominant run to begin the second term, opening with a 9-3 run.
Maria Tutaia was spelled to start the second half with the shooting combination of Selby-Rickit and Bailey Mes, which was so successful when New Zealand beat Australia in last month's Quad Series decider, teaming up.
Whatever the Silver Ferns coaches said at halftime seemed to briefly inspire their players into action.
They were a different side to begin the second half, cutting Australia's lead to four with a 13-6 burst, sparked by some accurate shooting and powerful through-court defensive work.
The third quarter was the Silver Ferns' best netball during the Constellation Cup, but that good work was undone with some sloppy play to close out the match.
Both teams made a messy start to the game with turnovers outnumbering goals midway through the opening term.
The Silver Ferns got off to the worst possible start with Tutaia whistled for breaking on their opening possession and Mes called for held ball shortly after.
New Zealand slowly got into their rhythm with Grant and Kelly Jury prominent early, picking up defensive scraps.
Grant was lively, frustrating Australian goal attack Susan Pettitt, who was forced to the bench after the opening quarter given the impact of the New Zealand captain.
While the Constellation Cup is out of reach for another year, Grant said they were determined to avoid being swept 4-0 in the series finale.
"You do not want to go 4-0 down. The desire is there for us. We want win this game."
AT A GLANCE:
Australia 55 (Caitlin Bassett: 29/31, Steph Wood: 14/18, Caitlin Thwaites: 10/13, Susan Pettitt: 2/2) New Zealand 43 (Maria Tutaia: 16/20, Bailey Mes: 16/17, Te Paea Selby-Rickit: 11/15) 1Q: 12-10, HT: 30-19, 3Q: 38-34.