Silver Ferns put one hand on Constellation Cup with stellar win

Ameliaranne Ekenasio lines up a shot against Australia.

A stellar first quarter run from the Silver Ferns has helped them to the perfect start to this year's Constellation Cup series, taking down Australia 56-48 in an all-round impressive performance.

The Silver Ferns jumped out to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter after an unprecedented 11-0 run against the Diamonds, with both the defence and offence firing on all cylinders to leave the Commonwealth Games gold medallists dumbfounded.

It made coach Dame Noeline Taurua's 50th Test in charge that much more special as she got to see a younger squad missing the likes of Gina Crampton, Jane Watson and Karin Burger deliver in a high pressure environment.

"The start was sublime, I was really happy with that and now our ability to maintain it is a thing we're walking towards," Taurua said.

"We did go down but we were able to keep our head above water when pressure was on."

In the thick of it all was wing attack Peta Toeava, earning her first start for the Silver Ferns in her fourth Test.

Toeava looked right at home on her familiar Auckland court, linking up time and time again with Mystics teammate Grace Nweke with pinpoint feeds to get the ever-reliable shooter rolling.

In the end, Nweke finished 40-from-42 while Toeava had 25 assists; captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio complimenting her goal shoot's efforts with a 16-for-19 evening at goal attack.

Peta Toeava looks to pass.

"One thing I'm really proud was she was able to sustain four quarters against Australia," Taurua said of Toeava. "When she's on, she's on fire.

"We saw snippets of that tonight and it's just how we can extend that out in her game, but I'm really proud of her."

At the other end, Kelly Jury and Phoenix Karaka were able to force turnover ball consistently throughout the match as well with Karaka finishing with an impressive five intercepts. Just ahead of them, Kate Heffernan was piling on the pressure as well.

And in the middle of it all was Whitney Souness who continued to stamp her claim on the "C" bib since being given her shot in Birmingham.

Despite the stellar performance, Australia still muscled their way back into the contest and even reduced the deficit to just three goals midway through the third quarter as Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich didn't hesitate to go deep into her bench to find answers.

Whitney Souness looks to control the ball against Australia.

However, the Silver Ferns rallied in the fourth quarter and outscored the Australians 14-12 to ensure they came away with the win, meaning they need just one more victory in the remaining three Tests of the series to retain the Constellation Cup.

They could lock the trophy away in Tauranga on Sunday but will know Australia will be dangerous after tonight's loss.

Should the Diamonds level the series, the Silver Ferns would then need to win a game on the road across the Tasman to retain the Cup next week.

Silver Ferns 56 [Grace Nweke 40/42, Ameliaranne Ekenasio 16/19]

Australia 48 [Cara Koenen 21/22, Steph Wood 11/16, Kiera Austin 9/14, Sophie Garbin 7/9]

HT: 31-23


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