New Zealand won the Constellation Cup for the first time in eight editions, sealing the series with a 45-43 victory in the fourth Test in Christchurch.
Australia must win by at least two goals to defend the trophy, and at least three goals to win a draw – any other result would see New Zealand claim victory.
There is a different atmosphere in Christchurch, as spectators are allowed into the arena for the first time in the series.
For the third game in a row, Australia started with Kiera Austin and Cara Koenen in both goal attack and goal shooter.
It was a tough contest from the start, with lots of turns.
Two Watsons are in front – Liz Watson is the provider of midfield for the Diamonds, while Jane Watson leads the Silver Ferns defense.
New Zealand was struggling to get the ball into its shooting circle, as the Diamonds packed the home side.
The home side focused on Cara Koenen, who left Austin with space. He took advantage, scoring five of Australia’s first seven goals.
The Diamonds led 7-3, then Silver Ferns closed the gap to two before Australia went on another attack.
When Austin and Koenen combined for the goal, it was 10-5 with just over two minutes remaining in that time frame.
At quarter-time, Maia Wilson and captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio are a 6/8 combination for Silver Ferns, while Austin has a 9/10 of his own. At a low scoring start, the Diamonds had extended their lead to 12-6 at the first break.
It was a different game at the start of the second quarter. Silver Ferns increased the defensive pressure, forced turnovers and sent Austin a tricky shot.
Ekenasio stepped up his game as New Zealand scored the season’s first five goals to return to 12-11, prompting the home crowd to raise the decibel level.
Open play and the Diamonds were up 14-11, before some overexerted defensive efforts left the visitors vacant at the back.
Silver Ferns attempted to keep tight near half-time, but Australia pushed the score to 22-16 before Wilson scored after the whistle sounded to leave New Zealand five points behind at half-time.
Silver Ferns started moving in the third period
A third term begins with Australia in command, when Diamonds leads 27-19.
Gaps arose in New Zealand’s defense. But the hosts hit back, led by the speed and agility of midcourter Kimiora Poi.
Silver Ferns continued to score goals, prompting Australia coach Stacey Marinkovich to divert Liz Watson from flanking into the center.
New Zealand continues to score goals, peeling off seven times in a row.
Wilson tied the score at 28-28 with 4:48 left in the third set, and then the home side took the lead with four minutes remaining, sparking deafening roars from the crowd.
The Diamonds appeared to lose confidence in shooting, but one final attempt saw Australia grabbed the last three goals, including one from Austin as time ran out.
With a quarter remaining, Australia is leading 31-30. The Diamonds turned Koenen on goal and Austin was the goalkeeper for the last 15 minutes.
The team is looking for goal after goal, with every last pass so important.
Australia took the lead but the pressure increased, and a contact penalty on the Diamonds spoiled the attacking chances.
The home team took advantage, and the score was back with 10:50 remaining.
A big defensive play from New Zealand scored another goal for Wilson, giving the home side the lead with nine remaining.
The pressure was immense, but Silver Ferns seemed to have more room in attack.
As time goes by, the onus is on the Diamonds to move forward again if they are to win the series.
Australia pushed a pass and took risks at the back, but the visitors couldn’t seem to stop Wilson and get a chance to take the lead.
When he scored the 33rd goal with three minutes remaining, New Zealand took the lead by two, and the goalkeeper repeated his effort 45 seconds later to push the lead to three.
With Australia in need of a substitute, New Zealand is accelerating and world champions coach Noeline Taurua secured the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012.
For New Zealand, Wilson shot 36/40, while Ekenasio was 9/12 with 19 assists.
In attack for the Diamonds, Austin had 28/35 while Koenen shot 15/19. Liz Watson finished with 17 assists.