Australia loses to New Zealand 53-52 in netball’s first Constellation Cup Test

Australia has blown a five-goal lead to lose 53-52 to world champions New Zealand in the first Test of netball’s Constellation Cup in Christchurch.

A dominant third quarter put the Diamonds ahead 44-39, but a series of errors quickly evaporated their advantage.

The match was the first between the teams since July’s World Cup final in England, when the Silver Ferns upset the Diamonds 52-51.

On Sunday, the final quarter steadily worsened for the Diamonds, who also lost captain and goal shooter Caitlin Bassett when she left the court in discomfort and was replaced by Caitlin Thwaites.

Bassett was one of Australia’s best, potting 26 goals from 30 attempts before leaving the contest.

The Diamonds found themselves down 26-25 at half-time after a poor opening half in which they were unable to capitalise on turnovers.

They were particularly wasteful in the attacking third as their connections from the mid-court to the shooting circle were rusty.

Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander brought Laura Scherian on for her Test debut late in the second quarter and she was more efficient when feeding the shooting circle.

But that fluidity went out of the Diamonds’ attack in the final quarter and the Silver Ferns regained the lead with seven minutes to go and never gave it back.

Aside from Bassett’s contribution, goal attack Gretel Tippett scored 24 from 25 and Thwaites added two goals.

Silver Ferns goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio led the scoring for the hosts with an impressive 29 from 31, while Maria Folau collected 24 goals.

The four-match series moves to Auckland on Wednesday night, before heading to Australia for the final two Tests in Sydney and Perth.

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