The Silver Ferns were given a reminder of Australia’s power and depth after dropping the first of the four-test Constellation Cup series 50-40 to the Diamonds in Melbourne on Thursday.
Meeting each other for the first time since January’s Netball Quad Series final, the Silver Ferns could not absorb Australia’s constant pressure and accuracy on attack despite a plucky third-quarter revival.
There were some encouraging moments from the visitors but overall, the Silver Ferns struggled to stay in the fight.
The Silver Ferns young brigade had some promising moments, but the clinical efficiency of Diamonds captain Liz Watson on attack and the pinpoint play of shooters Cara Koenen and Kiera Austin proved the difference.
"We’ve just got to continue to be better and take it on," Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio said.
"Some of our girls haven’t played Aussie too much, so now they’ve got a first taste and they know what’s to come in the next one."
Fresh off making her international debut, Silver Ferns shooter Amelia Walmsley faced her toughest assignment to date lining up against the Diamonds for the first time, in her third test.
The new-look Silver Ferns midcourt of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (wing attack), Maddy Gordon (centre) and Kate Heffernan (wing defence) also retained their starting spots.
Following the retirements of Steph Wood and Ash Brazill, shooter Austin and wing defence Jamie-Lee Price got starts for the Diamonds.
The Silver Ferns withstood an early onslaught from the Diamonds to make a solid fist of the opening quarter.
Under constant pressure, the Silver Ferns attack line worked overtime to get the ball goal-bound and initially managed to cope with the threat of defenders Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce.
Ekenasio and Wamsley settled into a smooth rhythm under the hoop, while at the other end, Kelly Jury and Gordon picked up valuable gains to disrupt Australia’s slick attacking momentum as the visitors took a 12-10 lead into the first break.
The hosts got away to a sizzling start on the resumption, gaining traction with a 5-1 start.
The Silver Ferns had their moments at both ends but Australia remained relentless.
Unable to stem the flow of ball defensively, the Silver Ferns introduced Karin Burger for Phoenix Karaka at goal defence late in the piece but faced a big challenge after Australia pushed out to a 29-20 lead at the main break.
The Silver Ferns delivered a concerted never-say-die response in the third quarter.
Strong challenges from Jury, Burger and Heffernan managed to disrupt the Diamonds flow.
Despite the constant attention, the teenaged Walmsley grew in confidence, adding extra movement while increasing volume.
A brief failure of stadium lights did not phase the Silver Ferns winning the third quarter by three but still trailing Australia 40-34 at the last turn.
Cara Koenen 27/31, Kiera Austin 22/27, Sophie Garbin 1/1
New Zealand 40
Amelia Walmsley 21/25, Ameliaranne Ekenasio 17/20, Maia Wilson 2/2
Quarter scores: 12-10, 29-20, 40-34.