Perfect Nweke helps Silver Ferns to second win over Australia

Grace Nweke controls the ball against Australia.

A strong third quarter and perfect shooting performance from Grace Nweke has seen the Silver Ferns go up 2-0 over Australia in the Constellation Cup series after a tight win in Tauranga tonight.

Nweke finished 37-from-37 in Tauranga to lead the Silver Ferns to a 52-48 win, meaning the Diamonds will now need to win both matches in Australia with a greater goal percentage in order to reclaim the Constellation Cup that the Kiwis took off them last year.

After winning the opening game 56-48 on Wednesday, coach Dame Noeline Taurua made just two changes to her starting seven with the injection of Sulu Fitzpatrick at goal keep and Kayla Johnson at wing defence.

Vowing to come out stronger after their rough first quarter earlier this week, Australia made good on their promise with a tight first half against the New Zealanders and took a one-goal lead into the first break.

That prompted early changes from Taurua, who brought in Kate Heffernan for Whitney Souness after the centre had a tough opening period and Kelly Jury was introduced for Fitzpatrick.

Dame Noeline Taurua reacts during the second Constellation Cup Test of 2022.

At the other end of the court, a much sterner Australian defence was making things more difficult for Peta Toeava after her impressive performance previously in Auckland but still she continued to link up with Mystics teammate Nweke and captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

Nweke and Ekenasio were perfection in the first half shooting 24-from-24 to keep the Kiwis in it; a 12-12 second quarter meaning the Australians headed to the break up 25-24.

However, the Silver Ferns managed to unsettle the Australians to start the third quarter, going on a 7-2 run to open up a 31-27 lead five minutes in.

The crucial third quarter - where New Zealand outscored Australia 15-9 - was partly due to the three intercepts conjured by Ekenasio, Johnson and Phoenix Karaka while Toeava added another 10 goal assists to her tally for the evening.

Peta Toeava chases the ball against Australia.

In the end, the run proved to be the difference as the Australians failed to find a break of their own in the fourth quarter, giving the Kiwis two wins from two home games as they now prepare to cross the Tasman for the other two Tests.

With that in mind, Taurua has some interesting selection conundrums to look forward to on tour; Toeava - who finished the night with 27 assists and just three turnovers in another impressive 60-minute outing - wasn't selected for the Australia leg of the series with Maddy Gordon and Kimiora Poi instead getting their shot at selection.

While Taurua entered the series wanting to give a players "as many opportunities as possible ahead of next year's Netball World Cup", Toeava's absence in Australia could be a talking point should the Silver Ferns somehow lose the Constellation Cup after her impeccable form in the first two matches.

Elle Temu, who impressed in her debut last month against Jamaica, joins the team for a rested Fitzpatrick as well.

The next Test will be played on Wednesday at 9:30pm NZT in Melbourne.

Silver Ferns 52 [Grace Nweke: 37/37, Ameliaranne Ekenasio: 15/19]

Australia 48 [Cara Koenen: 21/25, Steph Wood: 21/23, Sophie Dwyer: 6/7]

HT: 24-25


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