NS SCOREBOARD – Constellation Cup Tests 3 & 4

NS SCOREBOARD – Constellation Cup Tests 3 & 4

By |2021-03-11T23:20:52+10:00March 8th, 2021|Categories: AUS, Constellation Cup, Featured, International, NZ, Uncategorised|0 Comments

Contributors – Jaimie Keay, Andrew Kennedy and Ian Harkin. Photos by Steve McLeod

 

THE DROUGHT IS BROKEN

By Jaimie Keay

After nine long years, the Silver Ferns officially have their hands on the Constellation Cup.

Heading into this year’s series, the Ferns had all the momentum, with many claiming in the build-up that it was their title to lose. However, after four bruising test matches in six days, the world champions held their composure and for the second time in 24 hours, ran down the Diamonds lead to finish victors 45-43. 

On the back of another strong defensive performance that again saw the Diamonds struggle to combat the famous New Zealand zone, shooters Maia Wilson and Ameliaranne Ekenasio showed why they are a force to be reckoned with.

Across the series we saw 5 players debut as both teams look ahead to next year’s Commonwealth Games and the 2023 Netball World Cup. Three young Australian shooters went from zero tests to nine new caps, and it will be fascinating to see how the veterans Buetta and Wood are re-integrated later in the year.

For the Diamonds, they showed patches of their clinical and fast paced style of netball we have come to know over the years but once the Ferns got their tails up, they just couldn’t stop the juggernaut. 

New coach Stacey Marinkovich will have gained plenty of insights into her new side, especially after the team had a minimal amount of time together prior to the series due to their stint in managed isolation for 14-days. It was impressive that Australia reigned in the contact penalties from the first test, while both teams need to work on conversion of gains and turnovers to be fully dominant when they next meet.

One thing that is clear however after that win for the Silver Ferns – Dame Noeline Taurua and her coaching team have continued to instil the belief in the team. A scary prospect for international netball teams.

The Silver Ferns celebrate their Constellation Cup victory. Image Steve Mcleod

RESULTS

THIRD TEST – NEW ZEALAND 55 def AUSTRALIA 49

(11-14, 24-29, 38-40, 55-49)

NEW ZEALAND:
GS Wilson
GA Ekenasio
WA Crampton
C Kersten
WD Winders
GD Watson
GK Fitzpatrick

Bench:
Burger, Falkner, Mes, Poi, Saunders

Changes:
During 2nd Q – Burger GD (Watson)
During 2nd Q – Saunders WA (Crampton)
During 3rd Q – Poi C (Kersten), Watson GD (Burger)

Shooting:
Wilson 41/43 (95%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 14/17 (82%)
TOTAL 55/60 (92%)

Assists 50 (Ekenasio 19)
Gains 13 (Watson 8)
Penalties 40 (Fitzpatrick 9)
Turnovers 20 (Wilson 4)

AUSTRALIA:
GS Koenen
GA Austin
WA Watson
C Moloney
WD Weston
GD Bruce
GK Klau

Bench:
Bassett, Charles, Garbin, Jenner, Price

Changes:
During 1st Q – Price WD (Weston)
During 4th Q – Weston WD (Price)
During 4th Q – Bassett GS (Koenen)
During 4th Q – Charles C (Moloney)

Shooting:
Koenen 25/29 (86%)
Austin 18/27 (67%)
Bassett 6/7(83%)
TOTAL 49/63 (78%)

Assists 41 (Watson 22)
Gains 10 (Austin 4)
Penalties 48 (Bruce 13)
Turnovers 19 (Watson 5)

Player of the match: Sam Winders (NZ)

Kimiora Poi provided a spark for New Zealand in games 3 & 4. Image Steve McLeod

Match report – Third Test

By Andrew Kennedy

This was a classic smackdown between two netball superpowers, with a crapshoot of success from their recent games. Momentum swung every few minutes, with the Silver Ferns keeping their heads at the end when it mattered most. After Australia led in the opening half, it was New Zealand who gradually seized control and won it in the last eight minutes to take the series lead going into the last test. 

Who dominated?

Maia Wilson was outstanding and confirmed that she’s a new force in world netball. She was one of the few players keeping her spot all game, as she had done for the two previous matches. Her accuracy was shattering, as well as her strength and positioning, even to the extent of exploiting the umpires’ blind spots and raising her elbow in contests with the Australian defence. It is a case of redefining what’s allowed in big netball clashes.

Courtney Bruce was again a weapon and brilliant leader at the back for Australia. Her tracking and switching in the circle was excellent, her killer attitude was tempered with good sportsmanship, and she picked up possession six times against a switched on and miserly New Zealand attack. Bruce’s consistency should be a talking point for when the permanent captaincy of the Diamonds is finalised.

What worked?

After missing the previous test due to injury, the presence of captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio was inspirational for her side. She solved all of the riddles in attack, making herself available with strong hands at the right time and supporting Wilson well in the goal circle.

Kiera Austin did better in some aspects of play. As a player handling the ball frequently and integrated into most attacking plays, she hadn’t shone in the first two tests, with poor accuracy and many sprayed balls. In this third match she upped her defensive rating with two intercepts and two gains, also playing safer with only two turnovers, and having greater finesse with her feeds. It’s clear that she will be in the Diamonds mix for many years, so it’s vital that she tightens up in these areas.

What needs improvement?

Australia has had a large squad of players in New Zealand, but those outside the regular starting seven have not been used enough in this series. The Diamonds have tired in matches and perhaps fresh legs should have been utilised more. They have also failed badly with their shooting accuracy, in this match 14% lower than the Silver Ferns. There are legitimate questions about their centre court flow, with the host team able to adapt and stymie the normally slick Watson and Moloney.

The umpires’ interpretation of the obstruction rule is inconsistent. Many players in this game raised their arms as a matter of course, whether in defence or attack. The movement of an arm away from “natural body position” is worthy of a penalty in through-court play just as much as on the shot, and it was never called as such in this test. Whether it actually gives an advantage to a team is a matter of debate – moving the feet to the ball is the better tactic. The biggest culprit was ironically the player of the match, Sam Winders, who could be seen to hold her opponent off on every play, in full view of the umpire, and yet was not penalised.

Where was it won?

The coaching moves of Noeline Taurua were the key – she read her players and brought them off for a rest when needed, and didn’t keep shuffling the lineup. In particular, the substitution bringing Shannon Saunders and Kimiora Poi to wing attack and centre respectively reignited the front end of the Silver Ferns. Both of them doubled the number of goal assists compared to the starting seven players, and Poi in particular had crisp vision, with 100% of her feeds being converted to goals in her 22 minutes of play.

And let’s call her Dr Wilson – Maia was amazing with Ekenasio back, restoring the heartbeat of the Kiwis. She shot 41/43 and found a way to fend off Australia.

Where was it lost?

The whole final quarter was a struggle for the Diamonds. It was a sudden dose of bad medicine, with insecure plays. The through-court and attacking connection of Australia has been tenuous all series, and it unravelled in the final quarter. Both defensive units tracked well, especially inside the circle, but New Zealand nailed their positioning in the final fifteen. 

Throughout the game, coach Marinkovich would not have been happy with the Diamonds’ consistency. Little things add up, such as selecting a bounce pass to Koenen twice when she was moving backwards, or having total tunnel vision to pass to one player rather than seeing the further option, especially over the attacking transverse line, making a pass easy for interception.

When was it won and lost?

The volcanic final quarter for New Zealand, pounding Australia by eight goals, was decisive. Trailing 38-40 at three-quarter time, the hosts stuck to their patterns, while simple errors across the team by the Diamonds belied their lesser experience, non-existent match play, and lack of tenacity. The Silver Ferns didn’t have to do anything greatly different, the Australians’ errors handed them the match.

How did they do that?

Sandwiched between both Silver Ferns defenders and down 6-7 in the first quarter, Koenen kept on her toes, and when the Kiwis’ eyes were down Austin pegged the ball directly between both opposition for a safe and stylish goal. 

The Ferns defenders attempt a hoist as Kiera Austin shoots at goal in Test 4. Image Steve McLeod

FOURTH TEST – NEW ZEALAND 45 def AUSTRALIA 43

(6-12, 17-22, 30-31, 45-43)

NEW ZEALAND:
GS Wilson
GA Ekenasio
WA Crampton
C Poi
WD Winders
GD Watson
GK Fitzpatrick

Bench:
Burger, Falkner, Kersten, Mes, Saunders

Changes:
Start of 2nd Q – Saunders WA (Crampton)
During 3rd Q – Crampton WA (Saunders), Burger GD (Fitzpatrick), Watson to GK

Shooting:
Wilson 36/40 (90%)
Ekenasio 9/12 (75%)
TOTAL 45/52 (87%)

Assists 42 (Ekenasio 19)
Gains 4 (Watson 2)
Penalties 59 (Burger 13)
Turnovers 19 (Ekenasio, Wilson 3)

AUSTRALIA:
GS Koenen
GA Austin
WA Watson
C Moloney
WD Weston
GD Bruce
GK Klau

Bench:
Bassett, Charles, Garbin, Jenner, Price

Changes:
During 3rd Q – Charles WA (Moloney), Watson to C
During 3rd Q – Price WD (Weston)
Start of 4th Q – Koenen to GA, Austin to GS
During 4th Q – Weston WD (Price)

Shooting:
Austin 28/35 (80%)
Koenen 15/19 (79%)
TOTAL 43/54 (80%)

Assists 36 (Watson 17)
Gains 8 (Bruce 5)
Penalties 60 (Klau, Watson 11)
Turnovers 20 (Austin, Watson 5)

Player of the Match: Ameliaranne Ekenasio (NZ)

A battle for possession in the Australian goal circle in Test 4. Image Steve McLeod

Match report – Fourth Test

By Jaimie Keay

It was a long time coming for the Silver Ferns and they delivered when it mattered most in front of a raucous home crowd for the first time in the series. Clinical and patient when it mattered most, in a continuation of a recent trend the Silver Ferns ran down the Diamonds to claim the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012.

Kimiora Poi was given her first start against Australia on the back of a strong impact performance in game three and delivered a consistent performance against both Liz Watson and Kate Maloney in the middle. Netball fans will now be hoping the series can go ahead as is planned in Australia for the end of the year as we all continue to navigate around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who dominated?

Silver Ferns defence end. Across the series the unit just grew into their work and piled on the pressure when it was needed. With Sam Winders having her best series in a black dress at WD and birthday girl Jane Watson alongside Sulu Fitzpatrick and Karin Burger clogging up the space, they personified working together and will still be giving the Diamonds nightmares after they leave Christchurch.

What worked?

The word “processes” has become a cliche thrown out by many sports teams in the last couple of years but you could certainly say the Silver Ferns stuck to theirs. They had a game plan and knew if they stuck to it they would get the rewards.

While many during the match were hoping for a switch on attack for the Diamonds as the game progressed. Cara Koenan and Kiera Austin switching positions worked well as the match went on and again the introduction of Verity Charles showed that she wasn’t out of place in her debut series.

What needs improvement?

A cheeky one here but the Netball NZ/Silver Ferns streaming site! 

Disappointingly for overseas netball fans, especially those in the UK, they were left without the final two games online to watch. Many woke up at 3am and 2am respectively to see high quality netball but were left without. With Netball NZ providing good communication through both games as to the reasons behind the technical difficulties – we know they were frustrated that it wasn’t delivered. Lets remember however, the games are provided FREE of charge to those outside of NZ which we know is massively appreciated.

Where was it won?

Netball fans know that the third quarter is commonly called the championship quarter and this was no different in this final game. From the 4 minute mark the Silver Ferns scored 7 goals in a row on the back of a dominant performance from Ekenasio and Wilson who opened up the space with relative ease. This was followed up by a run of three goals around the ten minute mark and the momentum was well and truly with the home side. 

Where was it lost?

Defensively the Diamonds struggled to gain valuable turnovers to stem the tide of the Ferns onslaught. Klau and Bruce were resoundingly beaten as the game progressed and while a change was made at wing defence late in the third quarter, perhaps a switch in the goal circle with Bruce back to goal keeper might have given the Ferns something else to think about. For the Diamonds, unfortunately Klau finished the game with no intercepts, one rebound and one deflection. 

When was it won and lost?

One of the crucial lessons young attacking netballers get taught when they start their netball careers, is to always look into the circle. Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio finished the match with an impressive 19 goal assists. With only four to her stats tally at half-time, she then finished the second half with 15, including nine in the last quarter alone. She was not only looking long into Wilson but also the quick shooter to shooter passes once inside the goal circle were impossible to stop.

How did they do that?

Never give up on the ball – Maia Wilson missed with a shot at goal. The ball was travelling out of court but she somehow managed to recover and flick a pass along the baseline into Ekenasio. When your goal-shooter never gives up like that it can lift the rest of the team.

Maia Wilson was one of New Zealand’s best over the course of the series. Image Steve McLeod

SERIES STATISTICS:

Total series shooting stats:

New Zealand:
Wilson 140/161 (87%)
Ekenasio 41/52 (79%)
Mes 3/5 (60%)
Falkner 1/2 (50%)
TOTAL 185/220 (84%)

Australia:
Austin 77/110 (70%)
Koenen 76/89 (85%)
Bassett 25/28 (89%)
Garbin 3/6 (50%)
TOTAL 181/233 (78%)

Goals from 3m+ – Aust 18-15
Shooting % from 3m+ – 60-58
Goals from Centre Pass – Aust 121-120
Goals from Gains – Aust 27-25
Goals from Turnovers – NZ 40-33
Offensive Rebounds – Aust 17-5
Centre Pass Receives – 170-170
Assists – NZ 167-151
Feeds with Attempt – 203-203
Gains – Aust 49-41
Defensive Rebounds – NZ 14-12
Intercepts – Aust 14-13
Deflections with Gain – Aust 20-14
Pickups – 51-51
Penalties – Aust 225-194
Contacts – Aust 184-170
Obstructions – Aust 41-24
Turnovers – NZ 86-85

Stats leaders:

Most Offensive Rebounds – 11 Koenen (Aust)
Most Centre Pass Receives – 49 Ekenasio (NZ)
Most Assists – 71 L.Watson (Aust)
Most Feeds with Attempt – 96 L.Watson (Aust)
Most Gains – 20 J.Watson (NZ), Bruce (Aust)
Most Defensive Rebounds – 8 Bruce (Aust)
Most Intercepts – 6 J.Watson (NZ), Bruce (Aust)
Most Deflections with Gain – 6 J.Watson (NZ)
Most Pickups – 10 Moloney (Aust)
Most Penalties – 43 Bruce (Aust)
Most Contacts – 36 Bruce (Aust)
Most Obstructions – 9 Burger (NZ)
Most Turnovers – 18 Austin (Aust)

Statistical notes:

During the series, some definite patterns emerged. Apart from the first test (when just out of quarantine), the Diamonds started well in each match and tired as the game went on. Conversely, the Silver Ferns were slow starters but great finishers. Come the fourth test, it had a look of inevitability about it as the kiwis were behind at half time, but the expectation was that they were going to finish too strong.

To show how this trend played out, here is a quarter by quarter analysis of the series:

1st Q: Aus 51-37
2nd Q: Aus 51-48
3rd Q: NZ 51-38
4th Q: NZ 49-41

And here are NZ goal shooter Maia Wilson’s quarter by quarter stats during the series:

1st Q: 27/35
2nd Q: 35/39
3rd Q: 38/43
4th Q: 40/45

The only test that Australia won during the series was the second, when NZ captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio didn’t play (although the kiwis still finished quicker in that match). That was a pointer to how important Ekenasio is to the team. Meanwhile, for Australia, their number one goal attack Gretel Bueta took no part at all in the series, having just recently given birth. It will be interesting to see the difference she could make to the team in future.

Starting with the World Cup final in 2019, New Zealand has now won six of the past nine trans-Tasman clashes, and four of those victories have been by margins of one, one, one and two goals. In those last seven matches, New Zealand have won the last quarter seven times. It used to be Australia that were the fast finishers and the team that won the close ones. Now the tables have turned.

Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio was rightly proud of her team after taking out the series. Image Steve McLeod

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