Australia’s Caitlin Thwaites says the Diamonds must make the most of their opportunities if they are to keep New Zealand from winning the Constellation Cup in Perth next Sunday.
Thwaites rued Australia’s inability to close out the game after going down in another nailbiter to the Silver Ferns 53-54 in Sydney on Sunday.
“To be honest, we shouldn’t be getting ourselves into those positions,” Thwaites told Channel Nine after the match.
Even early on we had the opportunity to go up by a hell of a lot more than that.
“New Zealand are incredible at playing those, really incredible at playing those really – the moments of the game where the game is … we’re wrestling it. So we need to be able to execute in those times.”
Australia was dominant in the first quarter of the match, but did not make it count on the scoreboard and led by only three at the first break and four at half-time.
The Silver Ferns trailed by six goals at one stage, but sparked by veterans Laura Langman and Maria Folau, the world champions fought their way back in front of 13,497 fans.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio made the winning shot with 20 seconds remaining, after both teams made errors in a pressure-packed final five minutes.
It’s New Zealand’s first Test win over the Diamonds in Australia in three years.
The Silver Ferns can clinch just their second Constellation Cup series win in 10 attempts and their first in seven years if they win the final match in Perth next Sunday.
The Silver Ferns star shooter Folau said it was a thrilling finish.
“It was just tit for tat for most of the second half. Really proud of the effort of the girls, but we have one more game going to Perth and we will see how we go,” she told Channel Nine.
Best for New Zealand was Langman, who had 23 assists in a tight contest on all measures.
“It was a fantastic match. It was so intense,” she said.
“It got tennis-like in the middle there and … you can’t fault the heart out there.”
Taking an advantage into the next match in Perth, Langman said there were still challenges ahead for the tourists.
“The ability to probably keep the momentum going will be a real challenge,” Langman said.
“But you have to let yourselves come down a little bit, so I am sure the five-hour flight will help with that.”
It was another heartbreaking one-goal loss for the Diamonds, after defeats by that margin at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup finals and the first match of the current series.
Australia got an early jump, with slick passing and five straight goals setting up an 8-2 lead.
The Diamonds also started the second quarter well, again establishing a six-goal buffer, but their opposition reduced the deficit to one with a 5-0 run.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander replaced goal attack Gretel Tippett, who had made all 12 of her shots and replaced her with Tegan Philip, who missed with her first two attempts.
Australia won the second quarter by one to lead 30-26 at half-time.
Alexander brought Tippett back on for Philip after half-time, while Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua introduced Gina Crampton at wing attack for Shannon Saunders.
The Ferns had an 8-1 run to start the third to lead 34-31.
Just over five minutes into the quarter, Alexander made three changes with goalkeeper Sarah Klau, Philip and shooter Caitlin Thwaites replacing Courtney Bruce, Tippett and Caitlin Bassett respectively.
Australia regained the momentum and took a 43-42 advantage into the final quarter, only for New Zealand to hit back and lead 48-45.
The Diamonds led 52-50 with about five minutes to play but couldn’t close it out.