Defending champions and hosts Australia managed to retain their title at the 2015 Netball World Cup, beating eternal rivals New Zealand by three goals on Sunday. The final score was 58-55, per the event's official Twitter account.
The Diamonds dominated the Silver Ferns in the first quarter, building a nine-point lead, and New Zealand were never able to recover. Defence and efficiency were the key factors, as the Aussies held the Silver Ferns to just 73 percent shooting and shot 91 percent themselves. Australia have now won the last three Netball World Cups, beating New Zealand in each final.
The 2015 Netball World Cup has been a rousing success in terms of attendance, and before the start of the final, the organization confirmed the attendance record had been broken for the third time this week, with almost 17,000 fans present to watch the two rivals do battle.
A cagey start was expected, particularly after the Silver Ferns' upset loss over the defending champions during the group stages. But after splitting the first three goals, the hosts' defence shifted gears, and the Diamonds showed exactly why they were the favourites coming into the tournament.
Australia started to pressure New Zealand, jumping the passing lanes and coming up with a number of interceptions. While the Silver Ferns tried to do the same, they just couldn't get find any rhythm in their passing, leading to situations like this:
In the blink of an eye, the Diamonds built an eight-goal lead that kept on growing throughout the first quarter, thanks to a phenomenal performance on both ends of the court. Australia shot an incredible 100 percent as a team throughout the quarter―New Zealand managed just 50 percent.
After one quarter, the Aussies led 16-7, and the Daily Telegraph's Scott Jordan Harris didn't like the Silver Ferns' chances of turning the match around:
Caitlin Bassett and Kimberlee Green did the heavy lifting for the hosts, combining well near the basket and scoring a number of impressive goals.
Australia's defensive dominance continued in the second quarter, with the Diamonds building a double-digit lead at one point before Bailey Mes made several big shots to reduce the deficit for New Zealand. Maria Tutaia also started to find her range, and led by the prolific duo, the Silver Ferns managed to bring the lead down to eight goals at half-time.
Leana de Bruin was introduced at half-time, and as shared by New Zealand's official Twitter account, the veteran—who played for South Africa in the past—won her 100th Test cap for the team:
The Silver Ferns continued their comeback in the third quarter, and while the second-quarter push was mainly driven by the sharpshooters, the defence started to pull through after half-time. The event's official Twitter account shared this highlight:
Up front, Tutaia continued her fine work, and after a quick run of five successive goals, Australia's lead had shrunk to just four. Nat Medhurst stepped up with a number of key passes and a couple of good shots, pushing the lead back to six goals at the end of the third quarter, but with 15 minutes left to play, the Silver Ferns were still within touching distance.
The Aussies had yet to make a substitution and stuck with their starting seven, which had performed admirably up until that point. Bassett in particular once again showed why she's considered among the world's best, and early in the final quarter, she was pivotal in keeping New Zealand's attack at bay.
Actress Jacqueline Nairn refused to give up hope, however:
Even the Diamonds' official Twitter account realised the lead was hardly safe:
But despite the Silver Ferns' relentless pressure, Australia's class came through when it mattered the most. Within minutes, Bassett and Company pushed the lead back to eight goals, and with just five minutes left to play, the lead appeared safe.
Tutaia threw her body into the battle, coming up with touch rebounds, but the Aussie defence did enough to restrict her production, slowing down the scoring pace. The Silver Ferns managed to pull within three with a minute left on the clock, but it was too little, too late:
The Aussies' official Twitter account praised their rivals after the match, and the compliment was well-deserved, given the fact the Silver Ferns managed to pull within three:
For New Zealand, Sunday's final was yet another heart-breaking moment in their recent history against rivals Australia. Despite their win in the group stages, the Silver Ferns always struggled with consistency, and one poor quarter essentially doomed them in the final.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism, especially given the age of the squad, but once again, the 2015 World Cup will feel like a missed opportunity.
The Diamonds remain the team to beat, however, and with top shooter Bassett still in her prime, it doesn't look like that will change any time soon. Her 48 goals from 51 shots really set the tone on Sunday, giving the Kiwi defenders no chance.
Casey Kopua, Renae Hallinan and Julie Corletto spoke to the event's official Youtube account after the match: