Coach left in tears as Australia’s fairytale comeback seals Cup decider after week of turmoil
The Australian Diamonds put a turbulent week behind them to reclaim the Constellation Cup with a brilliant four-goal win over New Zealand.
The Diamonds fought back from a seven-goal deficit in the first half to run away with the 57-53 victory over the Gold Coast – earning their 100th win against New Zealand.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich was left in tears at the final whistle after claiming her first Trans Tasman Series win at the helm.
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After a series defeat on their return home last week, having lost the opening two matches by 13 goals combined, Australia overcame a heavy toll early on Sunday to reclaim the Cup from their biggest rivals.
The return of Jo Weston in defense and the introduction of Sophie Garbin as a goalkeeper helped the Aussies win games three and four.
They produced a stunning third term, where the Silver Ferns were held to eight streak goals.
Garbin finished the Diamonds’ shooting pick with 36 goals at 92% while Steph Wood contributed 21 goals at 78%.
For the Ferns, Grace Nweke scored 39 goals at 91% while skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio finished with 14/15.
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Australia – GK Bruce GD Weston WD Price C Moloney WA Watson GA Wood GS Garbin
New Zealand – GK Jury GD Karaka WD Heffernan C Souness WA Gordon GA Ekenasio GS Nweke
The Australian defense nearly won the opening ball against Silver Fern Grace Nweke and narrowly missed the opening break when Jamie-Lee Price was awarded a harsh penalty.
Price had another deflection as the Ferns again struggled to get off the line, just like Game 3.
But it was goal for goal in the first minutes between the two teams.
There were plenty of whistles early in Game 4, with the Diamonds coughing up 11 penalties in the opening five minutes.
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“The Diamonds defense will have to adjust the game slightly,” commentator Laura Geitz said.
Kelly Jury landed a pass intended for Sophie Garbin to open an early lead for New Zealand.
After just eight minutes, the Diamonds defensive end of Price, Weston and Bruce had conceded 13 of the team’s 14 penalties.
Bruce was given the ‘no more’ warning by the referee – but not an official warning as the Ferns hopped on a six-goal break.
A massive contact call on Maddy Gordon in attack gave the Australians their first chance to close the gap.
The Diamonds could have closed the gap further when Nweke was penalized for contact, but Gordon intercepted the pass between Price and Bruce and secured New Zealand a four-goal lead.
Jo Weston and Whitney Souness were both booked for willful obstruction late in the quarter as they both recorded their eighth penalties.
At the quarter, it was New Zealand who led 16-13.
“At the end of the day, it’s an international test match – you expect a bit of physicality,” Geitz said.
“It’s about how the Diamonds react to it (refereeing). Give some space, pull it back a bit, and behave until they can get back into the game.
“That level of physique (from Game 3) doesn’t want to be seen by the referees tonight.”
Steph Wood was hit with a “cruel” ball call on a shot that dropped to start the second term before Price put his body on the line to regain possession.
A fine dodge from Sophie Garbin saw her open up under the post to keep Australia close at hand. Kate Heffernan had a nice interception on the goal circle, but Diamonds star Courtney Bruce got the deflection to stop a resulting goal.
Kelly Jury could only shake her head after picking up a penalty on a missed shot from Garbin as another caution was handed to the Ferns.
A long ball missed Nweke to give Australia another chance to close the gap to four goals as it was suddenly Jury’s turn to lift the Ferns toll.
“It’s a bit of a ping-pong game back and forth,” Geitz said.
“The Ferns look a little tired. To what extent does he play a role in this game? »
Another missed shot from Steph Wood gave New Zealand the turnover to reduce the lead to six.
The first substitution of the game came with less than three minutes left as Amy Parmenter was introduced to the wing defence, Price moved to the center and Moloney went to the bench.
A fine low ball from Price to Garbin to get around Jury’s outstretched arms kept the Aussies close at half-time; down five at the main break.
Bruce was seen locked in conversation with assistant coach Nicole Richardson inside the locker room, gesturing over his positioning as Nweke had 23 goals at 92% for the half.
And Nweke missed her first attempt after Bruce forced her rival a little further than she was used to in the first half.
A big interception from Bruce gave the Aussies a second chance to cut New Zealand’s lead after Wood missed his fourth goal of the game, before some goals from Garbin leveled the scores in the third.
It took New Zealand almost four minutes to score their first goal of the quarter as the Australians suddenly found space in their goal circle.
Another big penalty on Gordon in attack gave the Diamonds the chance to take the lead for the first time in the game, and Wood converted.
When Liz Watson picked up an interception of the Ferns center pass, it was Australia who had all the running with the pro-Diamonds crowd.
Watson got the deflection moments later as coach Noeline Taurua turned to her bench with Elle Temu (GD), Kayla Johnson (WD) and Kimiora Poi (WA) all brought in in one quick change.
But Wood continued to drain long shots at Jury’s outstretched arms, opening up a 13 to two third term.
A massive pulldown from Garbin and a one-two with Wood secured the margin at six goals, before Price had the confidence to push past Temu to hit Garbin on the baseline.
The Australians were unlucky not to find more ball rolling when Nweke turned his back on Poi in a confused goal circle.
Karaka returned to the pitch for Jury as Johnson also got some much needed turnover for the Ferns.
Price received a warning for deliberate obstruction in the final seconds of the quarter with his penalty advanced into the end circle.
But Ameliaranne Ekenasio couldn’t drop the shot, “sucking air” from the Ferns heading into the final quarter with a 44-38 deficit.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the Australians, as they scored 19 goals and limited New Zealand to just eight goals – a low streak for either side.
Geitz hailed the “smart change” to send Parmenter to Gordon when Fern’s midfielder controlled play in the first half.
And it was Parmenter who put his body on the line in a massive collision with Poi before gaining possession to push Australia to their biggest lead of the game – nine goals.
Elle Temu received a warning for intentional contact as poor discipline began to mount for the Ferns last term.
“Pressure is what the Diamonds pride themselves on. This hard body against the defense of the body. It might not pay off in the first and second terms, but it crushes you. You really see the advantages in the second half,” Geitz said.
Wood’s sixth missed shot of the game gave the Ferns the chance they needed to return to the competition as Ekenasio scored his 12th goal of the game.
With the margin reduced to four, it took a very good hold from Garbin to keep the Aussie scorecard going.
A massive tip and a rally from Watson saw the crowd on their feet, but the ferns weren’t going away.
Quick hands between Wood and Price stifled the New Zealand defensive end as Souness received an official caution.
And time simply ran out for the Ferns as Australia secured a four-goal victory.
At the full-time whistle, the Ferns conceded 91 penalties, against Australia’s 78. Liz Watson was the choice of midfielders with 17 assists and 31 assists.
How to watch:
The match will be live on Fox Netball – with coverage starting at 7:00 p.m. AEDT. Game 4 of the Constellation Cup begins at 7:30 p.m. AEDT.
Follow the match via the live blog below