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Silver Ferns lose out to Australia in Quad Series opener

Coach Dame Noeline Taurua has a much clearer picture of the work that lies ahead after the Silver Ferns were outclassed 53-39 by the Australian Diamonds in their Netball Quad Series opener in London on Sunday.

In the first time the Quad Series has been held since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and just six months out from the Commonwealth Games, Taurua took the opportunity to test all her options with the main focus being on building towards the pinnacle event.

In a new-look young Silver Ferns team, Taurua made plenty of changes throughout the encounter, which the Diamonds dominated from the outset, as she got a gauge on combinations and playing personnel.

The Silver Ferns delivered a more promising second half but were on the back foot early which hampered any recovery as Australia maintained a forceful presence.

“We got a schooling from Australia today,” Tauraua said afterwards.

“They were very good and in the first five or 10 minutes we coughed up a lot of ball and when that happens you’re always on the back foot, that’s what happened today.

“There were some good moments. Defensively, in the second half we were able to turn over some ball and were quite structured but in the attack end, we weren’t able to do the job in our own positions.”

Kayla Johnson marked her return for the first time in nearly four years by getting the nod to start at wing defence for the Silver Ferns while goal attack Tiana Metuarau got her first taste of playing Australia.

In their first international exposure since losing the Constellation Cup to the Silver Ferns last March, Australia welcomed the return of influential shooters Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood as well as livewire midcourter Ash Brazill.

After recent lean times, the Origin Diamonds made an early statement with a strong opening quarter where Wood stood out on attack and Brazill as the spoiler on defence.

The Silver Ferns struggled to thread the ball through on attack in the face of relentless swarming defence while the Diamonds impressed with their slick transition and finishing. Jumping out early, Australia took a handy 17-10 lead into the first break.

Not long after the resumption, the 1.93m frame of teenaged shooter Grace Nweke was introduced for the Silver Ferns with Maia Wilson moving out to goal attack. Nweke’s imposing presence had an immediate impact, giving the Australian defenders plenty to think about while providing a defining target for her feeders.

The reliable Claire Kersten made an entrance shortly after at wing defence as the Silver Ferns were able to force more gains on defence.

Showing greater balance on attack, the Silver Ferns got extra reward in a tight second stanza but still found a more composed Australia hard to crack when trailing 30-21 at the main break.

Wing attack Shannon Saunders and goalkeeper Kelly Jury made their appearances for the Silver Ferns in a third quarter. The women in black had their moments but the young shooting end and lack of time together was evident.

Kersten was a reliable presence both defensively and with her ability to drive forward but the Silver Ferns could not find consistent effective flow and were restricted in their scoring opportunities when the Diamonds led 47-29 at the last break.

The Silver Ferns had the satisfaction of winning the last quarter but by then the damage had been done.

The Silver Ferns will meet England, who beat South Africa 71-47 in the early game, at 5.15am (NZ time) on Monday.