Experimental Diamonds fall short against Kiwis

Australia might have lost the second Test to New Zealand, but Diamonds coach Norma Plummer regards the performance as something of a victory.

After winning the first Test by five goals on Thursday, Australia fell to the Silver Ferns 45-42 in a fierce contest on Sunday in front of a record 8300 crowd at Vector Arena in Auckland.

The next time the teams could meet is at the world championships in Singapore next month when Australia will defend their title.

”It was even all the way. It was only the last couple of minutes that it blew out,” Plummer said. ”There was only a couple of stray passes in the end that was the difference.

”For a team that’s just got together, that’s a bloody good effort.”

The Diamonds rarely led during another physical match, but could take heart from their performance, given they started with three of their stars – defenders Mo’onia Gerrard and Julie Corletto, and shooter Natalie Medhurst – on the bench. As well as giving wing defender Sharni Layton her Test debut, Plummer opted to start with towering Caitlin Bassett at shooter for her fifth cap and Catherine Cox at goal attack.

The experiment of using a tall, holding shooter looked to have come unstuck by half-time.

The West Coast Fever goaler started shakily and was down on confidence after a disappointing second quarter when she converted only 60 per cent of chances.

After leading 12-10 at quarter-time, the visitors trailed by four goals at the main break.

But Plummer opted to keep her on court, and Bassett rewarded that faith when she lifted her accuracy to 100 per cent in the third quarter, with the insertion of Medhurst opening up the game for her.

The 24-year-old, however, was forced off midway through the final quarter when she bruised her tailbone falling heavily, and Cox returned to the fray. ”It’s been a big experience for her, and I didn’t want her to be put in that position at the world championship,” Plummer said of Bassett. ”She needed to get the feel of it and how much tougher playing the Ferns is going to be.”

Plummer brought on Gerrard and Corletto in the last quarter as they tried to claw their way to a win, but it was the home side’s night. Kiwi shooter Maria Tutaia finished with 27 goals from 33 attempts.

[AAP]