Constellation Cup 2019: Silver Ferns snatch nailbiting win for series lead

New Zealand have rallied from six goals down to snatch a heartstopping 54-53 win over Australia to lead the Constellation Cup series.

Captain Laura Langman emerged as Player of the Match and really directed traffic in midcourt, where New Zealand struggled to penetrate the Diamonds' defence at times.

That pressure caused the Silver Ferns problems right from the outset, as they conceded three early turnovers and fell six goals down in the opening quarter.

They rallied to close that down by the end of the quarter, but slipped away again during the second period, before closing to within one goal.

Australian coach Lisa Alexander showed her willingness to mix her line-up and while that proved successful at times, it was also confounding at others.

Shooter Gretel Tippett, who has missed only two goal attempts in the opening two games, went 13/13 for this encounter, but was subbed out in the second quarter, back in for the third and then out again moments later.

Trailling by four at halftime, New Zealand went on a 9-1 run after the restart to seize momentum and force Alexander into wholesale changes, including both frontline shooters Tippett and Caitlin Bassett.

Initially, those switches helped Australia back into the lead, but down the stretch, errors meant either team had a chance to snatch victory.

With extra time looking a very real prospect, the key moment came when replacement goal attack Teagen Philip was called for held ball in the circle and Ameliaranne Ekenasio scored at the other end to put the Ferns ahead.

The Diamonds equalised with less than a minute remaining, but with the centre-pass, Ekenasio made no mistake with the eventual winner. As the final seconds ticked down, New Zealand created another turnover, but Ekenasio's final shot for a two-goal margin came after the siren and didn't count.

By contrast, Ferns coach Noeline Taurua made minimal changes - she swapped starting wing defence Gina Crampton for Shannon Saunders and back again - preferring consistency in her line-up.

Ekenasio converted 27 of her 29 goal attempts, while Maria Folau also connected at a high rate, many from mid or long range to relieve the pressure on her feeders.

Langman handled the ball more than anyone else on court, with 43 feeds into the shooting circle, while New Zealand also enjoyed a 52-39 advantage in penalties.

The result - the Silver Ferns' first win in Australia since 2016 - gives them a 2-1 lead in the four-game series, but must win the final meeting in Perth next Sunday to capture the trans-Tasman trophy for just the second time.

Join us next Sunday for live updates of the deciding Constellation Cup clash between New Zealand and Australia

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