Cape Town - Australia beat New Zealand 56-50 to claim the Quad Series title in Cape Town on Wednesday, while hosts South Africa finished last in the four-team netball tournament.
New Zealand was in control of the game in the first quarter with a four-goal lead, but the Diamonds’ defensive pair of Courtney Bruce on goal defence and Sarah Klau on goal keeper pulled out all the stops in destabalising the Ferns’ attack, as they struggled to find goal shooter- Grace Nweke in the circle.
The pressure saw Australia close the gap to just one goal at half-time. The tables turned in the third quarter, when New Zealand battled to keep up with the increased tempo from Australia, which also led to scenes of uncharacteristic misses from Nweke under the post, as the Diamonds took a 44-40 lead. The Silver Ferns’ were denied a goal due to confusion from the umpires, but that still wasn’t enough to overcome an indestructible Diamonds team.
In the third place playoff match, England’s talisman Jade Clarke, ran onto the court for her 200th cap against South Africa.
A 49-42 victory for the Roses and a bronze medal meant South Africa walked away with nothing.
Both teams got off to a strongstart, with the home side playing to the crowds’ energy throughout. Layla Guscoth, Francesca Williams and Geva Mentor’s solid defence made it hard for the Spar Proteas in the opening quarter, but South Africa were able to regroup and draw level by its conclusion.
A defensive battle across all thirds meant both teams shared equal time in possession at half-time, but a couple of unforced errors allowed the Roses to take a narrow two-goal lead.
Proteas head coach Norma Plummer’s changes only came in the third quarter when captain Bongiwe Msomi was moved to wing attack from centre, Khanyisa Chawane took over the centre role and Shadine van Der Merwe came on and played wing defence. The changes yielded better drives from the Proteas, but the Roses continued to show grit and determination in protecting their two-goal cushion even at the end of the championship quarter.
It was all to play for in the last fifteen, because unlike the 46-all draw between the two sides on Sunday, someone had to walk away with a bronze medal. Roses’ goal defense Funmi Fadoju’s elevation and hands posed challenges for South Africa in their own circle, which pushed Plummer to bring in Ine-Mari Venter on goal attack after giving Nomfundo Mngomezulu a bit of time on court.
The hosts were also handicapped by too many turnovers due to ball placement in their goal third and shooting circle, and ended up being punished by England’s conversions from the gains to win the match by seven goals.
Plummer will have to wait a little bit longer to secure her 100th win as an international coach. There is plenty work ahead of the Netball World cup in July for the Proteas, having lost three games in the tournament and drawing against England in round two.
The 20-year-old Nweke was the biggest winner of the individual awards following a sublime performance in the competition.
Best Shooter: Grace Nweke (New Zealand)
Best Mid-court: Kate Heffernan (New Zealand)
Best Defender Courtney Bruce
Best Player: Grace Nweke (New Zealand)
Final standings: 1 Australia, 2 New Zealand, 3 England, 4 South Africa