New Zealand has ended the Australian FAST5 Flyers unbeaten start to the 2014 FAST5 Netball World Series with a 30-21 victory at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday.
Going into the final match of the day, Australia and New Zealand were the only two unbeaten nations in the tournament. With the 6000-strong crowd stirred up for the much-awaited clash of the day, the FAST5 Ferns did not disappoint to remain unbeaten in three years at the tournament.
Defending champions the FAST5 Ferns were outstanding in defence while the Flyers were guilty of missed opportunities, converting just 12 of 24 attempts.
"I think we had a lot of scoring opportunities in that fourth quarter which is a positive thing. We probably just need to be a bit smarter with our shot selection, but all in all I thought it was a really good contest and a great battle against New Zealand which we always seem to have these epic encounters with them," Flyers co-captain Clare McMeniman said.
Over-ambitious passing by both sides kept the game on level-pegging, but the Ferns claimed the lead going into the first quarter, albeit only by one, 7-6.
The Flyers worked the ball through court with grace, with some beautifully timed passes by Kate Beveridge falling into the sure hands of shooting partner Karyn Bailey. But the heavily defensive nature of the game was obvious in the very low halftime score, with the powerhouses tied 11-11.
Choosing to put their powerplay into action in the third quarter, the Ferns got off to a strong start. The Flyers adopted their full-on defensive tactics, which included playing midcourter Ash Brazill at goal attack. In the face of fierce pressure, the Ferns banked on the two-point money shots from the hands of Bailey Mes to build up a 23-13 lead at three-quarter time.
As the Flyers entered their powerplay phase in the final term, it was the turn of the Ferns to tighten the screws on the Australian attack. A six pointer from Flyers' Bailey pegged the scores back to within eight courtesy of a long range six-point shot in the final minute but it was too little to late as the Ferns held on for a nine-point victory.
The Flyers take on Malawi and England on Sunday with a top-two finish and berth in the grand final on the line.
"I think we've got two tricky matches tomorrow against England and Malawi so we'll go back and do some preparation in terms of that but FAST5 is such a varied game and anyone can win if their shooters are on so hopefully we're on tomorrow," McMeniman said.
The FAST5 Flyers take on Malawi at 11.15am (AEDT). Catch all the action live on FOX SPORTS 3.