New Zealand shocked defending champions Australia to win the Vitality Netball World Cup with a 52-51 victory.
The Silver Ferns, whose last World Cup title came in 2003, took control of the contest late in the second quarter and didn’t give up their advantage as captain Laura Langman led her side to success with help from some superb shooting from Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
The two teams had met 16 times in Netball World Cup history – with New Zealand winning just four of them – and it was the seventh time the teams had contested a World Cup final, including four years ago in Sydney.
Australia made four changeS from the side that beat South Africa in the semi-final and captain Caitlin Bassett, who came in for Caitlin Thwaites, started in dominating fashion as she made her first three goal attempts.
The Silver Ferns were not as clinical and Folau, who made her 148th international appearance becoming the second most capped player in New Zealand history, got off to a difficult start missing two of her first three goal attempts.
Neither side could get into their free-flowing play in an error-plagued opening with both team’s defensive play forcing mistakes, but it was the experienced Bassett who was proving to be the difference as she continued to shoot perfectly to help Australia to an 8-4 lead after eight minutes.
New Zealand began to establish themselves in the contest and they capitalised on a poor pass from Jo Weston to reduce the deficit to one at 9-8. Momentum was with the Silver Ferns and despite their disappointing 71.4% shooting compared to Australia’s 100%, the first quarter finished level at 10-10.
The Silver Ferns averaged 61% possession in the first quarter, but they failed to make that count, and Australia started the second period much more assured and protective of the ball. Still nothing could separate the two sides as the pair traded goals and when any team did miss, they managed to grab the rebound and put it away.
Bassett and Folau were showing how vital they were to their side as they both continued to create and put away scoring opportunities. Ekenasio was also displaying her shooting range, making all seven of her goal attempts in the second quarter.
New Zealand were finding goals much easier to come by, but Australia were not giving them an inch until the final minute of the half when a loose pass from Kelsey Browne was intercepted and Ekenasio increased the gap to two for the first time in the quarter.
Folau followed that up with another goal with seconds remaining on the clock and New Zealand took a 28-25 lead into half time.
The Silver Ferns carried that momentum into the opening stages of the third quarter as the built on their advantage, taking a 31-26 lead with five minutes played as Folau and Ekenasio continued to shoot well.
Australia’s coach Lisa Alexander replaced Steph Wood with Gretel Tippett at half time, but the change didn’t provide the attacking spark the Diamonds were hoping for and they trailed 36-29 with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
New Zealand continued to maintain their advantage as Folau and Ekenasio, who were assisted brilliantly by Gina Crampton and Langman, dominated the Australia defence. The Diamonds struggled to turn over the ball, but they finally managed to force a significant one late in the quarter and they were able to reduce the deficit to four, so they trailed 41-37 going into the final quarter.
The Diamonds raced out of the blocks in the fourth quarter and they cut the deficit to one after three straight goals to start the period. Folau and Ekenasio kept the scoreboard ticking for New Zealand as the lead bounced between one and two goals.
A poor pass from Bassett allowed the Silver Ferns to re-establish their four-point gap. However, the defending champions responded again, and a Folau miss in between three Bassett goals reduced the lead to one again.
With five minutes remaining, New Zealand led 48-47 and a Bassett error allowed that to be extended to 51-48 by the Silver Ferns. Back came Australia with a turnover of their own and entering the final 90 seconds there was one goal in it.
Australia couldn’t find that elusive turnover, however, and New Zealand became world champions, sparking jubilant scenes among the Kiwi contingent.
Suncorp Netball League