New Zealand has denied the Australian FAST5 Flyers an historic FAST5 World Netball Series title for the second consecutive year with a 35-31 victory in a thrilling Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand tonight.
The Flyers trailed by 11 points late in the match before co-captain Erin Bell drained two three-point shots in Australia's power play period – which doubled the scores - to close within three points of producing a remarkable upset.
With seconds left in the match, the desperate Flyers were unable to force the necessary turnover to give themselves a shot at snatching victory and the FAST5 Ferns held on for a four-goal victory.
The result means that the Flyers have claimed the country's second straight silver medal in the modified format of the game while New Zealand is celebrating its fourth consecutive World Netball Series title.
Australia still remains winless against New Zealand in the FAST5 format and has not beaten its Trans Tasman rival in the World Netball Series since 2011.
After New Zealand scored the first two goals of the match, the Flyers quickly settled into the match and a two-point shot by Amorette Wild put the Flyers in front. Another moments later - after a key intercept from Kate Shimmin - from Karyn Bailey saw Australia go into quarter time leading 7-4.
The FAST5 Ferns regained the lead in the second term through Bailey Mes, who was the dominant shooter for New Zealand in the game's first 12 minutes.
Then Kiwi shooter Ellen Halpenny produced arguably the shot of the tournament by draining a huge three-point shot from long range on the buzzer to give her side a 15-10 advantage at the main break.
The third quarter saw New Zealand use its power play and the FAST5 Ferns made their move, scoring 12 points to open up a 27-15 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Flyers started their power play period in the final quarter with a two-point shot by Bell but they were unable to stop New Zealand from scoring at the opposite end of the court and that proved decisive in the final result.
Australia scored 16 points in the power play period to eight from the FAST5 Ferns.
The victory means that New Zealand finished the tournament undefeated and, remarkably, have not lost a FAST5 match in the three years the modified format has been played.
Bell, who scored all of Australia's 21 points in the second half, said she was proud of the side's performances over the tournament and in the Grand Final. She said New Zealand showed why it's been the best FAST5 team.
"It definitely wasn't the result that we came here for but we went down fighting," Bell said after the match.
"It was a really exciting finish and that's what FAST5 is all about. The girls can hold their heads high – obviously disappointed (to lose) but still be proud.
"It was so exciting to see Kate Shimmin out there doing the chair lift and Ash Brazill flying around and getting all these intercepts. Everyone gave it their all and I think Australian netball is in good hands."
FAST5 Ferns captain Laura Langman was named Player of the Tournament.
1PT 2PT 3PT
K. Bailey 3/3 1/2 -
E. Bell 5/5 2/6 2/2
A. Wild 1/2 1/1 -
1PT 2PT 3PT
E. Halpenny 2/2 0/2 1/2
B. Mes 14/17 5/8 -
G. Rasmussen - 0/1 0/1