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Australia New-look Diamonds earn redemption in NZ

12:11  03 march  2021
12:11  03 march  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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New national netball coach Stacey Marinkovich has been searching for leadership and her reimagined Australia Diamonds delivered with a series-levelling 45-36 win against New Zealand at Christchurch Arena.

Samantha Prahalis standing in front of a crowd: Diamond Liz Watson beats NZ's Claire Kersten to the ball in Wednesday's Constellation Cup win. © John Davidson/AAP PHOTOS Diamond Liz Watson beats NZ's Claire Kersten to the ball in Wednesday's Constellation Cup win.

Liz Watson's first taste of international captaincy was a compelling audition for the permanent gig as Marinkovich's new-look outfit brushed away the rust from Tuesday's shaky first glimpse in Wednesday's Game 2 of the four-match Constellation Cup campaign.

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Shooter Cara Koenen was named player of the match in her first international start but the inspirational example set by Watson, Kate Moloney and defenders Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston was eye-catching.

At the heart of it all was Watson whose 33 feeds and 21 assists provided the oomph the Diamonds needed.

"The first game we were a little bit hesitant," Watson said.

"The seamless changes we had (and) we were first on to those loose balls was pleasing. That's a pretty significant leap for us so we're pretty happy with that win."

New Zealand's Silver Ferns will be hoping captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio's calf injury recovers in time for Game 3 on Saturday because she was dearly missed from the home side's shooting circle.

In contrast, Diamonds pair Koenen (29 goals at 85 per cent) and Kiera Austin (13 goals at 54 per cent) were far more confident as they laid the base for a combination that promised to endure.

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Australia addressed the poor ball retention and discipline that blighted their opening performance by giving away an improved 19 turnovers and conceding just 49 penalties to New Zealand's 58.

New Zealand never quite clicked in Jane Watson's 50th Test and struggled despite the efforts of shooter Maia Wilson (32/38).

Marinkovich gave most of the starters who were steamrolled by New Zealand in Game 1 a second chance.

Watson led a centre court riposte after being upstaged by the Kiwis the previous night.

The Australian general had more feeds than Gina Crampton and Claire Kersten combined at quarter-time and by the halfway point of the second term all three Silver Ferns starting midcourters had been replaced.

New Zealand staged a third-quarter fightback, prompting Marinkovich to hand a Test debut to goaler Sophie Garbin.

The Ferns won the second half 20-15 to show some resolve ahead of the series' conclusion.

"We can't start like that against Australia," stand-in New Zealand captain Crampton said.

"We left the fightback a little too late."

Australia have the luxury of depth for the remaining two matches, with midcourters Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley yet to sample court time this series.

Defender Kim Jenner may also be in line for a Test debut.

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