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New Zealand down Australia in Constellation Cup opener
The New Zealand Silver Ferns have downed the Australian Diamonds 55-51 to claim the opening game of the 2013 Constellation Cup at the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome in Invercargill on Sunday.
It was a bittersweet night for the Australians as Laura Geitz led the Diamonds onto the court for the first time as Australian captain while Kim Green and Bianca Chatfield both celebrated their 50^th Test appearance in the green and gold.
The reigning Constellation Cup titleholders held off a spirited comeback from the Australians in the final quarter to draw first blood in the five-Test series, which moves to Auckland for the second Test on Thursday.
The Silver Ferns opened a five-goal advantage midway through the first quarter as Irene van Dyk and Maria Tutaia capitalised on costly Australian turnovers with accurate shooting from all areas of the circle.
Alexander turned to the bench at quarter-time as Rebecca Bulley made way for Chatfield, who recorded her milestone after 12 years in the Diamonds team, while Kimberley Ravaillion was introduced to centre and Green moved to wing attack.
The hosts, who led 19-14 at quarter-time, opened a seven-goal advantage early in the second quarter before a timely intercept from Geitz swung momentum in favour of the Australians before the break.
The Diamonds found their feet in the midcourt as Hallinan, Ravaillion and Green controlled the pace as Bassett, who finished the game with a perfect 31 goals from 31 attempts, and Bell cut the margin to trail 31-29 at half-time.
The Silver Ferns re-established their advantage in the third quarter as Leana de Bruin, introduced at goal keeper at half-time, held Bassett to two goals in the second quarter while extending their lead to eight at three-quarter time.
Alexander introduced Sharni Layton at goal keeper for the final quarter, her first international appearance since 2011, as Medhurst came off the bench at goal attack and Browne back on at wing attack.
New Zealand extended their lead to 10 goals three minutes into the final term before the Australians fought back, outscoring Silver Ferns 14-10 in the fourth quarter, but fell four goals short.
Australian Diamonds New Zealand Silver Ferns
GS Caitlin Bassett Irene van Dyk
GA Erin Bell Maria Tutaia
WA Madison Browne Courtney Tairi
C Kim Green Laura Langman
WD Renae Hallinan Joline Henry
GD Rebecca Bulley Casey Kopua
GK Laura Geitz Katrina Grant