Fitting fightback from Silver Ferns

Kate Heffernan looks to pass for the Silver Ferns. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography.
Kate Heffernan looks to pass for the Silver Ferns. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography.
It was a fightback Robyn Broughton would be proud of.

Down 42-40 at the third quarter break, the Silver Ferns were tenacious in the final quarter to win 56-53 against Australia in Invercargill tonight.

Goal keep Kelly Jury mounted the comeback with a stunning outside arm tip, and the defence end worked tirelessly to grind down the Diamonds attackers into mistakes.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan let the ball go on attack, and Maddy Gordon drove hard in to the pockets, opening up space to hit the circle edge.

They were more clinical in the final quarter - and just wanted it more.

It capped off a special night in front of a sellout crowd at Robyn Broughton Stadium - renamed for the test in memory of the Southland coach who died last month - with a tribute video played before the game and players wearing black armbands.

There was an electric atmosphere at the first test played in Invercargill in seven years, and the Silver Ferns' bench were on their feet for the final quarter.

It was also the national side's first win of the series, having lost the opening two tests in Australia, and their 550th test.

It was the Ferns' best performance of the series and showed that this young group are building.

They worked hard to bring the ball down the court and finally pulled in more ball on defence.

It forced the visitors into more changes than the opening two tests, stunting their flow in periods and helping New Zealand push ahead.

The Silver Ferns looked more settled early on but poor decision-making let the Diamonds back in and take a 14-10 lead at the break. 

Grace Nweke at the back gave the group confidence, with Reuelu-Buchanan firing in some nice feeds.

Phoenix Karaka picked off the first tip and her combination with Jury at the back tightened up.

Kate Heffernan’s depth through court brought the ball down, but held balls punished the Silver Ferns.

Diamonds goal attack Kiera Austin’s entry into the circle was lethal, with a quick change of direction and smooth footwork helping her side take the lead.

They continued their run at the start of the second, jumping to 21-16.

But the Silver Ferns hit back with Heffernan and Gordon tightening on the outside of the circle, forcing the Diamonds' feeders to become hesitant.

That forced several turnovers and helped start a Silver Ferns nine-goal unanswered run to eventually lead 28-24 at halftime.

Whitney Souness put in beautiful feeds, Tiana Meterau, who was injected at goal attack, used the ball to shift her defenders.

When the Ferns played with depth and speed on the ball they were unstoppable.

At the other end of the court, the defenders picked up more ball than the other tests and ground hard to force the Diamonds into changing in their shooting end.

But as they always do, the Diamonds came back.

The introduction of Jamie-Lee Price at centre was a game-changer, with her taking a screaming running through intercept within the opening minute.

Liz Watson did a power of work out the front, helping the Australians to a two-goal lead.

Their ability to wear down their players and keep them high and off the circle edge made it hard for the Silver Ferns on attack.

But the Kiwis hung on to bring to bring it back to 42-40 at the end of the third quarter. 

Constellation Cup 
The scores 

Silver Ferns 56

Grace Nweke 34/36, Ameliaranne Ekenasio 12/14, Tiana Metuarau 2/4, Amelia Walmsley 8/10

Australia 53

Cara Koenen 15/17, Kiera Austin 17/25, Sophie Grabin 21/22

Quarter scores: Australia 14-10, 24-28, 42-40