New Zealand 52 Australia 51
Tear-streaked Australian faces are becoming a familiar sight after global netball finals. For the second successive major tournament, the world No 1 side found themselves on the end of a one-goal defeat. Last year, it was England who triumphed in the dying seconds at the Commonwealth Games. This time, it was their familiar foes New Zealand pipping them to the world title by a solitary goal.
Yet the story of this World Cup final in Liverpool was not one of Australian missed opportunity, but of ultimate redemption for an ageing New Zealand side affectionately nicknamed ‘Fossils’.
Victory marked the culmination of an astonishing turnaround for their side who just a year ago were leaderless after sacking their coach in the wake of the worst Commonwealth Games performance in their history. That new head coach Noeline Taurua has now guided her team to a first world title in 16 years is a staggering achievement.
To understand how she did so, it is first necessary to look beyond Liverpool on Sunday and back to two conversations that took place last year, laying the foundation for this World Cup success.
The first was with Casey Kopua, a three-time World Cup runner-up, who Taurua convinced to reverse her retirement. The other was with Laura Langman, who had ended her international career in 2017 by opting to play club netball in Australia without special dispensation to do so. Not only did Taurua grant that dispensation, she made Langman captain for this tournament.
Both players were on court for every minute of Sunday’s final, just as they had been a day earlier in the semi-final victory over England. Kopua, Langman, Katrina Rore and Maria Folau – four players with more than 100 international caps apiece at the heart of everything brilliant from this New Zealand side.
“I love the team and I’m so glad I came back,”said Kopua, who had already announced this would be her last game for her country.
“It feels so good. It’s totally draining but worth it and I can’t believe we’ve done it.
“The rollercoaster was a little bit bumpy and a little bit rough, but we knew that was going to happen.”
“I’ve been on the other side of the fence [losing World Cup finals] and now I know what this feels like. This side feels much better.”
We should have known there would be almost nothing to choose between these two sides. Only three days earlier, it was Australia who had come away from their last group-stage match against the Kiwis with a one-goal win – the sixth time in 16 World Cup meetings that had been the margin of victory.
So close are these two titans of global netball that not even the pre-match coin toss could separate them and it had to be redone after incredibly landing perfectly on its side. The coin must have known.
At the last World Cup four years ago, New Zealand had emerged triumphant when these two sides met in the group stage, only to lose to them in the final. Having been beaten on Thursday, they set about bidding to inflict a similar defeat on Australia come the gold medal match in Liverpool – the sixth successive time these two sides had met in the final.
Signs of nerves were evident from the outset, with even the usually unflappable Folau dropping a simple ball out of play inside the first 10 minutes and missing three of her first seven efforts in an opening quarter that saw both sides locked together at 10-10.
Yet even as Folau’s woes continued – she would end with just 80 per cent shooting accuracy – the Kiwis found a way to grind their way in front. As had been the case against England, their zonal defence caused continuous problems with Kopua, Rore and Jane Watson repeatedly quashing the Australian attack.
With her side outplayed more than the three-goal half-time deficit suggested, Australia coach Lisa Alexander threw caution to the wind and brought on the inexperienced figure of goal keeper Sarah Klau at the break. Having only made her international debut at the start of this tournament, it was a sign of the early desperation in the Australia camp.
Still they struggled to make any inroads. The gap widened to four goals with one quarter remaining and repeated infringements from the Australian defence allowed New Zealand’s score to continue growing. By the end of the match Australia’s penalty count was 82 to New Zealand’s 49.
Fifty seconds remained when captain Caitlin Bassett scored to put Australia within one, but the reigning champions failed to gain possession again. Yet again her side had lost on the biggest stage and the Fossils were able to celebrate an unlikely triumph.
Full time! Australia 51 New Zealand 52
The Silver Ferns have done it! They have shocked Australia to win the World Cup! What a superb game, it swung this way and that and it was the New Zealanders who kept their nerve to defeat the old enemy by just one point.
59.30 mins: AUS 51 NZ 52
Aussies have got one back but with just a few seconds remaining the Kiwis just have to hold onto it...
59 mins: AUS 50 NZ 52
Bradley is cautioned. Whistle. Ekenasio has a chance to slot it home. How are your nerves? Ice cool! Well done. The lead is restored to two goals
58 mins: AUS 50 NZ 51
Trailing by just two, the Aussies have the ball. And they score!
57 mins: AUS 48 NZ 51
Kiwis defence pinches it! They go up the other end and score.
56 mins: AUS 47 NZ 49
Have the Silver Ferns weathered the storm?
54 mins: AUS 46 NZ 48
But the Aussies will not go away. The sides trade goals. Until a poor pass from the Aussie wing attack invites an interception. Lucky for the Diamonds the ball goes out.
53 mins: AUS 45 NZ 47
Ekenasio and Folau working well together now, interchanging with a telepathic understanding. The front two settling things for the Kiwis.
Aussies 8-6 in this Q...
52 mins: AUS 43 NZ 46
Heroic work at the back from Casey Kopua with an interception, that's what the Kiwis needed to lift them and they go up the other end and score.
50 mins: AUS 42 NZ 44
A foul gives Ekenasio a chance to settle the nerves.
And now a bit of brilliance from Ekenasio as she misses a shot and gathers her own rebound from behind the post!
49 mins: AUS 42 NZ 43
Kiwis need to stop the rot because Australia look more powerful, more confident, more assured at the moment. Crisp in attack and firm in defence. They have cut the lead to just one.
46 mins: AUS 38 NZ 41
Aussies score, Kiwis make an error and Tippett makes sure with the netball equivalent of an 18-inch putt.
What can Coach Alexander
say to the Diamonds in the huddle? They face the biggest 15 minutes of their sporting lives right now.
End of third quarter: AUS 37 NZ 41
The Kiwis touched a seven-goal lead but have been pegged back to four ahead. The Aussies will feel they landed a psychological blow in the last few minutes of that quarter.
If you're of a Silver Fern persuasion, though, you'd be emphasising that the lead was three at the half and has grown to four now....
43 mins: AUS 37 NZ 41
The BBC commentators are saying that only one of the Aussies on court - Basssett - has experience of playing in a World Cup Final. Seeing that the Diamonds are a fixture in the final, that seems a curious deployment of the experienced players available?
The intro of April Brandley on at WD for Jamie-Lee Price seems to ignite the Diamonds, they reel off a run of scores.
39 mins: AUS 30 NZ 36
Bassett has only been shooting at 82%, albeit that she makes a simple one here. Can Australia get back into this? Coach will be reflecting that the subbing on of Tippett has not worked,
37 mins: AUS 27 NZ 34
Tippett losing the temper a bit! She's been cautioned. But now the Kiwis give it away - only for the Aussies to lose it in turn. Ekenasio has a huge, pressure shot, and she gets it. Are the Kiwis going to upset the odds here?
35 mins: AUS 26 NZ 31
These Aussies are under pressure- and they are not used to handling it! Tippett leans on the post for a sloppy foul and the Diamonds need to find a way of overturning a FIVE goal deficit.
31 mins: AUS 26 NZ 28
Tippett, on as a sub, tries a wild shot and misses.Sarah Klau, also a sub, has had a caution for running her mouth at the ref.
But she settles her nerves shortly after with a goal.
Third quarter gets underway
The Kiwis with a three goal advantage.
Half time: AUS 25 NZ 28
Aussies give it away cheaply, and despite Steph Wood putting in a bodycheck, the Kiwis manage to shoot and score. And they have it again. And they have scored again! The Kiwis coming with a strong finish here.
26 mins: AUS 22 NZ 22
And now a calm, classy Steph Wood levels the scores.
25 mins: AUS 20 NZ 21
A shocking miss from no distance by the Aussies! But they fight like tigers to win it back and they prevent the Kiwis from capitalising.
22 mins: AUS 18 NZ 19
High scoring, high quality affair now. Both sides moving the ball quick and true,
19 mins: AUS 13 NZ 13
Folau shoots, rim shot, but her mate Ameliaranne Ekenasio gets her out of jail with a good rebound. The Aussies level it up, efficiently.
17 mins: AUS 11 NZ 12
Can Folau settle? THis might help! Nice shot here, and that puts the Kiwis ahead for the first time.
End of Q1: 14 mins: AUS 10 NZ 10
Brilliant finish from New Zealand! Ekenasio drains an excellent shot and then as the Aussies look to beat the buzzer, some heroic defending from Watson denies the Bassett from the restart. We're going in at 10-10!
14 mins: AUS 10 NZ 8
Caitlin Bassett leaps full length, and it is some length, but cannot get onto a long pass. Neither side playing very controlled, it's a bit wild and there are mistakes all over the court right now.
10 mins: AUS 9 NZ 8
"She'll eat that up all day for breakfast," says the commentator. Mmmm. All day breakfast.
7 mins: AUS 7 NZ 4
Gap is starting to open up and it looks to me that New Zealand have a problem, either because of or manifested in the performance of Folau, who seems nervy and is making too many errors, meaning that they cannot bank on scoring from fairly routine situations. Shame, because she has had a strong tournament.
4 mins: AUS 3 NZ 3
Folau taking on some ambitious shots and she has missed a couple already. But Ekenasio makes sure and the Silver Ferns are on terms with the favourites.
3 mins: AUS 3 NZ 2
Folau makes a mistake but Langman's inteception saves her bacon.
1 mins: AUS 1 NZ 0
Aussies have first use of the ball and the first goal as well. Ameliaranne Ekenasio is fouled, and now levels it up for NZ.
Australia: GS Caitlin Bassett, GA Steph Wood, WA Kelsey Browne, C Liz Watson, WD Jamie-Lee Price, GD Jo Weston, GK Courtney Bruce.
New Zealand: GS Maria Folau, GA Ameliaranne Ekenasio, WA Gina Crampton, C Laura Langman, WD Katrina Rore, GD Casey Kopua, GK Jane Watson.
Here are the Aussies
Here is the New Zealand line up
A familiar match up
So here we are again, Australia take on New Zealand for the sixth World Cup final running and seventh time overall after yesterday's semi-finals in Liverpool.
Australia survived a scare to edge South Africa 55-53 after resting four players including captain Caitlin Bassett. While New Zealand crushed England's hopes with a 47-45 victory which denied Tracey Neville's side of glory on home turf.
A year ago, New Zealand were reeling from a fourth place finish at the Commonwealth Games, now they have a chance to win the World Cup for the first time since 2003.
Australia have the edge, though, winning six of their last seven matches against the Kiwis, including Thursday's narrow 50-49 victory in their final group game.
Squads: New Zealand: Maria Folau, Laura Langman (c), Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Gina Crampton, Bailey Mes, Casey Kopua, Jane Watson, Shannon Saunders, Karin Burger, Phoenix Karaka, Katrina Rore, Te Paea Selby-Rickett.
Australia: Caitlin Bassett (c), April Brandley, Kelsey Browne, Courtney Bruce, Paige Hadley, Sarah Klau, Jamie-Lee Price, Caitlin Thwaites, Gretel Tippett, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Steph Wood.
- Centre pass is at 4.45pm.