The Constellation Cup continued on Sunday night, and the Australian Diamonds were aiming to bounce back from their unfortunate loss in the series opener.
But despite a better opener this time around from the Diamonds, the Silver Ferns bought the intensity in Tauranga, and claimed game two with a 52-48 win.
The Diamonds’ fortunes looked to be changing in the first quarter, with the Australians showing a more organised looking defence compared to last week’s game. Leading 13-12 in the opening break, the Aussies took full control of the game.
However, a number of mistakes made by the Diamonds saw them trail the Silver Ferns by five goals in the third term. It set up what would be New Zealand’s opportunity to capitalise, and ultimately lead it towards victory.
The host country turned up the heat in the final quarter, and were in front by five goals. The Diamonds managed to slowly crawl back in the last remaining minutes, but were left stunned by the Silver Ferns by four goals. Their victory over the Diamonds see them going two-nil in the series.
Opener a success for Diamonds
Off the back of their poor opener on Wednesday, the Diamonds fired up and showed a shift in their momentum. Overall, the Aussies looked poised for success with their performance, as the statistics went the visitors’ way.
As it hit the quarter break, the Diamonds held a one point lead 13-13. It was a far cry from the first game’s disappointing start, where they trailed the Silver Ferns 20-9.
Liz Watson and Steph Wood were a dream duo, which led to the ball getting to the circle more smoothly. Wood stepped up her game on Sunday and shot 21 from 23, whilst Watson’s work with intercepts contributed to the Diamonds clenching the lead early on.
The Diamonds’ time in possession was at 51 per cent, holding a slight upper hand over the Silver Ferns.
Diamonds’ third quarter blues prove costly
Despite winning three out of the four quarters, the Diamonds ultimately fell short of the win following their performance in the third term.
The Silver Ferns’ third quarter performance of 15-9 saw them overtake Australia and build up momentum into the fourth to claim victory. With 62 per cent of time in possession, New Zealand was able to get the upper hand.
Despite the best efforts from the likes of Sophie Dwyer (3/3) and Cara Koenen (3/5), the Diamonds time in possession was only at 38 per cent, which meant that they were unable to keep New Zealand at bay.
New Zealand’s young gun Grace Nweke, who was a pivotal part of her side’s win, stood up in the final two terms. She had 10/10 goal attempts in just the third term. Captain Ameliarenne Ekenasio was also dominant in the third.
Diamonds head coach Stacey Marinkovich spoke post-game about the disappointing quarter.
“I think it’s just the nature of the game. [The Diamonds] know that they’re not going to win every ball, but it’s those one or two that they do get, [the issue] is what we do with it,” Marinkovich told the media following Sunday night’s loss.
“It’s about the accumulation of pressure and presence. So there’s much that you’ve got to do in those 60 minutes to get those opportunities.”
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Silver Ferns’ midcourt in full display
Nweke was undoubtedly a major contributor to the Silver Ferns’ big win. But the host city’s midcourt proved important, with wing attack Peta Toeava a standout for her team with a game high of 27 assists.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Kate Heffernan also contributed well in the assists department, each with 10 and eight respectively.
New Diamonds show future is bright
In more positive news for the Diamonds, game two saw three debutants unveiled, and each impressed on the court.
Maddy Proud finally got her chance to light it up on the court, and that is exactlt what she did. With 18 minutes of playing time, the NSW Swifts co-captain was a handy addition to the side in the two quarters she featured in. Whilst her statistics were limited, Proud helped to ensure the shooters were equipped with eight feeds.
Sophie Dwyer was the second Diamond to debut to make her mark on the night. The Giants star impressed with her first goal attempt and also showed good effort in defence alongside Proud, Amy Parmenter and Ruby Bakewell-Doran. Dwyer played for 17 minutes, in which time she made 6/7 goal attempts at 85.5 per cent. She was also seen in action for two quarters.
The night’s final debutant was Bakewell-Doran. The Queensland Firebird appeared for two quarters, with 17 minutes of play under her belt.
Marinkovich was pleased with the three debutants, and spoke highly about their performances on Sunday night.
“I think sometimes you get people named into the 12, and they don’t usually get onto the court their first game,” the coach said.
“The fact that [the debutants] are coming in and going straight onto the court shows the confidence that the group has in them, but also what they’ve been doing in the training environment.
“So it’s great to put them out there and see the impact, then see what that looks like and how we evolve that into combinations for longer periods of time.”
The continued rise of Grace Nweke
Off the back of last week’s game, Grace Nweke once again impressed during game two.
Her stellar performance consisted of her shooting 37 goals all at 100 per cent. She also had a rebound, an intercept and a feed.
Nweke’s dominance on the court during Sunday night has seen her named the Silver Ferns’ MVP of the match.
The Australian Diamonds now move onto their third test, which will be on home soil in Melbourne this Wednesday.
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