Take five: What the Silver Ferns must do to beat Australia in Constellation Cup decider – Stuff

Brendon Egan is a Stuff sports reporter
OPINION: The Silver Ferns square off against Australia in a winner-takes-all fourth game of the Constellation Cup on the Gold Coast on Sunday (9.30pm NZ time).
Dame Noeline Taurua’s side were brought back down to earth with a thud after winning the opening two tests in New Zealand, thumped 62-47 on Wednesday.
Here are five things the Ferns must do if they’re to topple the Commonwealth Games gold medallists in the decider.
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Start like they did in game three and the Ferns can forget about retaining the Constellation Cup. You can’t afford to be slow out of the blocks playing Australia at home, who will feed off the crowd support. The Ferns fell into an early 9-4 hole on Wednesday and were slow to get into the match, turning the ball over and battling to establish their attacking connections. If they can stick with Australia in the first 15 minutes and hang with them on the scoreboard, the Ferns will only grow in confidence. The longer the Ferns take the game and keep it close, the better their chance of winning.
After scoring 16 and 15 goals in the Ferns’ first two wins, captain Ekenasio was ineffectual in test three, shut down by Australian goal defence Jo Weston. Ekenasio was limited to six goals in 32 minutes, being replaced in the second quarter before retaking the court in the final term. With Ekenasio contained by Weston and the Ferns’ midcourt also struggling, New Zealand found it challenging to get the ball into star shooter Grace Nweke, who dominated in the New Zealand tests. Ekenasio needs to stand up against Weston and score around 15 goals again to take the pressure off Nweke if they’re to prevail in game four.
The Australian skipper and wing attack was quiet by her high standards in New Zealand, but was exceptional in Melbourne. She orchestrated the Australian attack, sending accurate ball into Sophie Garbin and Steph Wood and regularly hit the circle edge. Watson got the better of Kate Heffernan, who was substituted in the second quarter for Kayla Johnson. If Heffernan gets the start at wing defence, she needs to hound Watson all game, as she did in the first two tests, and cause havoc for her.
Australia were always going to step it up with their physicality on defence in game three, but the Ferns never adapted to it. You can guarantee the Australians will contest fiercely for every possession on the Gold Coast and the Ferns will have a defender on their back every time they touch the ball. New Zealand need to be ready for that again. They can’t rely on calls from the umpires and need to be smarter on attack, getting off the body when they can. The Ferns must fight fire with fire too and show greater grit on defence themselves and not take a backward step.
The Diamonds don’t turn the ball over a huge amount, so any time they do, you need to cash in. New Zealand have to look to score off any Australian turnovers and make them pay. Sunday’s decider should be a much closer scoreline than Wednesday’s lopsided contest in Melbourne. The side which gobbles up the most turnover ball, and scores off it, will likely be the one who wins. Australia outscored the Ferns 19-10 from turnovers in the third test, which proved crucial in the final outcome.
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