An embarrassing umpiring error left New Zealand searching for answers as Australia laid down an emphatic marker ahead of the Netball World Cup with another Quad Series triumph.
The Diamonds successfully defended their title without a single loss, beating their fiercest rivals New Zealand 56-50 in the final in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Even an amateurish episode in the final quarter when both umpires chalked off a Black Ferns goal because they did not see it could not disguise how dominant the Diamonds were in winning the series for the seventh time in eight episodes.
In the final quarter with the Diamonds having stretched the lead to seven, Australia’s goal defence Courtney Bruce and 20-year-old opposition shooter Grace Nweke tumbled over in a heap as they jostled while the New Zealander was taking a shot at goal.
The umpires were so engrossed in trying to sort out who was at fault in the incident that they both missed that Nweke had scored while falling.
Sheepishly and rather embarrassingly, they ruled out the goal, and had the game restarted by a ball toss-up – which was, of course, no help at all to an irritated New Zealand side.
“I actually didn’t know what was going on,” said Nweke. “You’d have to ask Anso what she was thinking. “Me and Court [Bruce] went down, a couple of pushes here and there. Meels [Ekenasio] had put the shot up. I didn’t even see it, neither did Anso.
“It went to a toss up, which is a new one. I haven’t had one of those since high school.”
By defeating the Kiwi world champions for a fourth straight time and completing an unbeaten week’s work over their four matches, Stacey Marinkovich’s side demonstrated why they will take all the beating at the World Cup at the same Cape Town International Convention Centre in August.
“Really happy with that one. We built something in this second match against the Silver Ferns. It’s a really great confidence builder for us – we put out a really great last quarter that we’ve been wanting to do this whole series,” said Diamonds’ captain Liz Watson.
The Ferns’ shock World Cup triumph in Liverpool in 2019 left the Australians smarting – and they have been taking every opportunity since to reassert their supremacy, with another Quad crown now added to their Constellation Cup and Commonwealth Games wins.
Once again, just as she had been in the first win over the New Zealanders, the star of the show was Steph Wood, who, with her distance shots, movement and link up play with attacking partner Cara Koenen, who scored 33 goals from 34 attempts, was voted player of the match.
“It was a really tough match, a real quality one – and every time we come up against the Ferns, they’re getting better and better,” said Wood.
“We train against our own defenders, who definitely give us a tough time – and we want to make training harder than games, so that when you come to the match against tough defenders, you know what to do.”
The Australians definitely won the physical battle of attrition, despite again having to rouse themselves after an underwhelming start as they went into the first break four goals down at 19-15.
But gradually putting suffocating pressure on the Silver Ferns before and after the break, the New Zealanders coughed up seven turnovers in a decisive third quarter in which an early 10-3 run enabled the Diamonds to take control by four goals.