Auckland, July 22, 2019
The Silver Ferns have completed the ultimate redemption story, beating world number one Australia 52-51 to win the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
It is New Zealand’s first World Cup title in 16 years and fifth overall; the last time they tasted glory was in Jamaica in 2003.
New Zealand started with the same starting seven that beat England the day before.
Australia started with their strongest line-up, which included Caitlin Bassett at goal shoot and Steph Wood at goal attack.
It was goal for goal early until Australia’s defensive line got a ball as they applied early pressure on the New Zealand shooting end.
There were some early nerves from goal shoot Maria Folau, who dropped a ball and missed a couple in the early stages.
At one point, the Diamonds went up by three but New Zealand goal keep Jane Watson came out for some brilliant intercepts and Bassett was at the wrong end of a couple of contact calls.
New Zealand finished the first quarter with a flourish, the scores tied 10-all after the first quarter.
At that stage Folau had some struggles scoring five from nine, while Australia were going along at 100 percent.
It was a goal for goal affair in the second quarter, as Folau started to find her range.
Katrina Rore did a good job keeping Australian wing attack Kelsey Browne relatively quiet.
New Zealand again finished strongly and just before the buzzer Folau gave the Ferns a three goal lead 28-25.
The Diamonds came back with changes – Gretel Tippett came on at goal attack and newbie Sarah Klau came on at goal keep for Courtney Bruce.
But they didn’t have the desired effect and after a few minutes Klau found herself with a caution for dissent and soon after Tippett also got a caution.
Fine scoring spree
New Zealand went on a five-one scoring spree and continued their strong third quarter trend.
Casey Kopua, in her final game for the Ferns was a strong presence as ever and the Ferns led by as much as seven goals.
April Brandley came on at wing defence for Jamie-Lee Price with a couple of minutes left in the quarter.
Australia then came back strongly and it became a frenetic finish to the third quarter, with both side’s missing opportunities.
The Diamonds closed to within four goals, trailing New Zealand 41-37.
Australia scored the first three goals in the final spell to take it to within one.
The margin fluctuated between one and three goals, New Zealand maintaining a slim lead.
Katrina Rore pulled off a huge deflection with three minutes left to give New Zealand another goal and a three goal lead but Australia got a break of their own and went within one.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio then scored a huge shot under pressure to give the Ferns a boost and New Zealand just had to hold on.
They ran down the clock with perfection and the Silver Ferns completed a fairy-tale finish.
Ekenasio was huge again for New Zealand, finishing with 92 percent accuracy and Folau scored in clutch moments.
Casey Kopua picked up the Most Valuable Player award.
It was a remarkable result given how Australia have dominated New Zealand in recent times, winning eight of nine clashes since the start of 2018.
The Silver Ferns hit rock bottom at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year, when they finished the tournament in fourth place.
Since then, Coach Noeline Taurua has come on board and veterans Casey Kopua and Laura Langman have returned to the side.
New Zealand came into the World Cup ranked fourth but upset Commonwealth Games champs England in the semi-final.
In the preliminary round the Ferns went down by a solitary goal to Australia.
Earlier, England beat South Africa 58-42 to win bronze.
Bridget Tunnicliffe is Digital and Sport Journalist at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and Picture have been published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz