Diamonds Triumph in Opening Constellation Cup Test
The Australian Diamonds have taken an early lead in the 2015 Constellation Cup series after defeating arch rivals New Zealand 50-44 in the opening Test at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena.
The six-goal win was the Diamonds ninth straight Constellation Cup victory and 11th from the past 12 meetings between the two countries.
In their first meeting since the final of the Netball World Cup Sydney 2015 final, the Diamonds found their groove after a sluggish start and won every quarter to deny Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu a win in her 50th Test.
Caitlin Bassett was again a dominant figure in the goal circle for Australia, shooting 38 goals at 86 per cent accuracy and was well fed by Natalie Medhurst (12 goals, 13 assists) and Paige Hadley.
Medhurst was named the player-of-the match.
Sharni Layton took over the goal defence bib from the retired Julie Corletto and her combination with captain Laura Geitz down back was rock solid after the Silver Ferns got away to a strong start.
Layton’s timing and judgement was impeccable, pulling off a game-high four intercepts along with six deflections.
Kim Ravaillion enjoyed a solid four-quarter contest in the centre with her New Zealand counterpart Laura Langman.
Gabi Simpson became Australia’s 164th Test player when she made her international debut after coming into wing defence mid-way through the second term to replace vice-captain Renae Ingles, who was forced off the court with a leg complaint.
Clare McMeniman was also given a run at wing defence in the final quarter as Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander began to trial new combinations.
Geitz said it was an encouraging performance by the Diamonds but knows there’s still plenty to work on ahead of the second Test in Auckland on Thursday night.
“It was a bit of a scratchy game but that’s to be expected. We haven’t been on court in a Test match for quite some time so we knew it would be a bit backwards and forwards,” Geitz said after the match.
“Just really happy with the guts and determination the girls showed out there and definitely still a lot we can improve on.”
The Diamonds took control of the match early in the second term and withstood a Silver Ferns fightback either side of half-time.
Australia led by as much as eight goals early in the final quarter and the Silver Ferns were unable to make a late rally as they did in August’s final of the Netball World Cup.
Geitz was pleased to see Simpson earn her first Test cap and McMeniman return to the international arena after making her international debut late last year.
With the retirements of Corletto, Kimberlee Green and Rebecca Bulley following the Netball World Cup, there are opportunities for the next group of athletes to stamp themselves as world-class performers.
“We’ve lost 150 Tests worth of experience with girls that have retired and the biggest thing we told the new girls was just to play the game they play best and not try to be a Julie Corletto or a Kimberlee Green,” Geitz said.
“That’s what they did really well. It’s a great opportunity to blood some young players and get some different combinations out there.
“We had Gabs (Simpson) out on court for her first game tonight and hopefully we can see Gretel Tippett out there soon as well.”