Diamonds shine in landmark netball Test
THE Australian Diamonds have one hand on a sixth straight Constellation Cup title after outlasting New Zealand 56-47 in a night where history was made at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre.
The Silver Ferns were desperate to mark skipper Laura Langman's record-breaking 146th appearance for her country in style, and threatened to cause an upset on a handful of occasions.
But an 8-0 run by Australia midway through the final term to build a nine goal lead proved decisive.
New Zealand has now lost nine straight games against Australia as the Diamonds continue to build a mental edge over their Trans-Tasman rivals before July's world cup in England.
But the Diamonds' fitness and resolve shone through as they built a 2-0 series lead with two Tests remaining across the ditch.
A sold-out crowd of more than 4374 fans were on hand to watch the city's first-ever netball international as the defending world champions put on a show.
Turnovers plagued the Silver Ferns early and Australia capitalised with the first six goals of the game, the opening five from skipper Caitlin Bassett.
NZ hit back to level proceeding at 11-all late in first quarter and then 32-31 midway through the second term, but Australia held firm to build a 29-24 lead at the main break with Bassett nailing 22 of 23 shots, and finished with 37 from 38.
Australia led by four at the final change but the Silver Ferns rallied to get within 43-42 with ten minutes left.
But more Silver Ferns turnovers and some clinical Diamonds attack resulted in a 8-0 run to end the visitor's resistance.
The Diamonds defence, led by starters Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce, were outstanding, forcing Silver Ferns shooters Maria Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit into 17-22 shots from three metres out or more, compared to 1-2 for the hosts.
Diamonds centre courters Kelsey Browne and Liz Watson showed why they're rated vital cogs in the team's future by controlling the game superbly, finishing with 24 and 18 assists respectively.
"It was really tough and they really were back at us," said player of the game and Diamonds newcomer Browne, who relished the chance to shine in front of the bumper Townsville crowd.
"I absolutely loved it.
"I never thought I would ever get here, so every time I pull on the green and gold is really special to me.
"I'm just taking every opportunity with both hands."
Langman said she was proud to etch her name into the record books.
"I came into this sport during a wicked era and I couldn't have asked for better mentors," Langman said.
"I live for the moments and every game is like my first.
"I just love the friendships that get built ... it's a really special moment."
AUSTRALIAN DIAMONDS 56 (Caitlin Bassett 37-38, Gretel Tippett 12-12, Steph Wood 7-9)
NEW ZEALAND SILVER FERNS 47 (Maria Folau 32-38, Te Paea Selby-Rickit 15-20)
at Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre tonight.