The Silver Ferns, who have lost the last three World Cup finals to their Australian rivals, triumphed by a single goal in Liverpool, securing their fifth title.
Afterwards, Langman said:
“It was hotly contested. Given five more minutes the result could have been different, so we’re grateful and very humbled by this occasion.
“We always knew it was going to be tight, and I thought we were up and down throughout the game, but so were Australia. Coming down to the final period where we just needed to score on our own ball, we showed really good patience and ball retention. Everyone contributed.”
Langman, who was part of those silver medal-winning New Zealand teams in each of the last three tournaments, described the feeling of finally holding the trophy aloft.
“Fourth time lucky, on a personal note! It’s been a long time between drinks! There have been numerous occasions when we’ve come so close and haven’t quite got across the line, so to get across the line is so special. What a game!”
Langman also praised the tournament as a whole, saying:
“I just think Liverpool did a fantastic job – they certainly lived to their pillars. I just genuinely think there’s a good appreciation for good sport out there. What a stage to play on, and it’s definitely one for the memory bank.”
The Silver Ferns are on top of the netball world for the first time since 2003 after beating Australia 52-51 in an enthralling final in Liverpool.
Kopua, who now has a gold medal to add to the three silvers she has previously won, said:
“It’s exactly what we came here for – the roller-coaster was a little bit bumpy and a little bit rough, but we knew that it was going to happen.
“It always comes down to that last shot, but I had no doubt in our girls – I don’t think anyone had any self doubt either. I just think the confidence and the processes that you could see in our team really showed there in that game.”
On finally being crowned world champion after an illustrious career, she added:
“Now I know how it feels on the other side of the fence! I also know how the other side feels, but this feels way better!”
The Silver Ferns, whose last World Cup title came in 2003, took control of the contest late in the second quarter and didn’t give up their advantage as captain Laura Langman led her side to success with help from some superb shooting from Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
The two teams had met 16 times in Netball World Cup history – with New Zealand winning just four of them – and it was the seventh time the teams had contested a World Cup final, including four years ago in Sydney.
Australia made four changeS from the side that beat South Africa in the semi-final and captain Caitlin Bassett, who came in for Caitlin Thwaites, started in dominating fashion as she made her first three goal attempts.
The Silver Ferns were not as clinical and Folau, who made her 148th international appearance becoming the second most capped player in New Zealand history, got off to a difficult start missing two of her first three goal attempts.
Neither side could get into their free-flowing play in an error-plagued opening with both team’s defensive play forcing mistakes, but it was the experienced Bassett who was proving to be the difference as she continued to shoot perfectly to help Australia to an 8-4 lead after eight minutes.
New Zealand began to establish themselves in the contest and they capitalised on a poor pass from Jo Weston to reduce the deficit to one at 9-8. Momentum was with the Silver Ferns and despite their disappointing 71.4% shooting compared to Australia’s 100%, the first quarter finished level at 10-10.
The Silver Ferns averaged 61% possession in the first quarter, but they failed to make that count, and Australia started the second period much more assured and protective of the ball. Still nothing could separate the two sides as the pair traded goals and when any team did miss, they managed to grab the rebound and put it away.
Bassett and Folau were showing how vital they were to their side as they both continued to create and put away scoring opportunities. Ekenasio was also displaying her shooting range, making all seven of her goal attempts in the second quarter.
New Zealand were finding goals much easier to come by, but Australia were not giving them an inch until the final minute of the half when a loose pass from Kelsey Browne was intercepted and Ekenasio increased the gap to two for the first time in the quarter.
Folau followed that up with another goal with seconds remaining on the clock and New Zealand took a 28-25 lead into half time.
The Silver Ferns carried that momentum into the opening stages of the third quarter as the built on their advantage, taking a 31-26 lead with five minutes played as Folau and Ekenasio continued to shoot well.
Australia’s coach Lisa Alexander replaced Steph Wood with Gretel Tippett at half time, but the change didn’t provide the attacking spark the Diamonds were hoping for and they trailed 36-29 with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
New Zealand continued to maintain their advantage as Folau and Ekenasio, who were assisted brilliantly by Gina Crampton and Langman, dominated the Australia defence. The Diamonds struggled to turn over the ball, but they finally managed to force a significant one late in the quarter and they were able to reduce the deficit to four, so they trailed 41-37 going into the final quarter.
The Diamonds raced out of the blocks in the fourth quarter and they cut the deficit to one after three straight goals to start the period. Folau and Ekenasio kept the scoreboard ticking for New Zealand as the lead bounced between one and two goals.
A poor pass from Bassett allowed the Silver Ferns to re-establish their four-point gap. However, the defending champions responded again, and a Folau miss in between three Bassett goals reduced the lead to one again.
With five minutes remaining, New Zealand led 48-47 and a Bassett error allowed that to be extended to 51-48 by the Silver Ferns. Back came Australia with a turnover of their own and entering the final 90 seconds there was one goal in it.
Australia couldn’t find that elusive turnover, however, and New Zealand became world champions, sparking jubilant scenes among the Kiwi contingent.
Ekenasio converted 25 of her 26 goal attempts as New Zealand beat the hosts 47-45 to set up a World Cup final against Australia tomorrow.
Despite her own phenomenal contribution, Ekenasio highlighted the spirit and support within the Silver Ferns squad as key to their success.
“We’ve been building towards this, and I just know that every single one of us – we’ve all got each other’s backs. I just felt the full weight of the team behind me. What happened out on court was just full credit to everyone.
“This is what we’ve been working for, but it still feels really surreal. It’s been a grind, an absolute grind, and today not a single second was easy. It was tough.”
Their task was made even tougher by the capacity crowd, as the Roses fans gave their vocal support to Tracey Neville’s side as a seesaw match unfolded.
Of the atmosphere, Ekenasio added:
“It was loud – I think that was probably one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever played in front of. It was deafening and probably pretty intimidating to start with, so we just had to try to block it out.
“But it was pretty amazing – the crowd was into it, so it was pretty cool to play in front of.”
In another thrilling semi-final, the Silver Ferns’ exceptional start and powerful third quarter saw them win 47-45.
“Everyone out there did their jobs and did them well for 60 minutes. It was probably quite appropriate that the match was tennis-like, with Wimbledon having just finished, and to play on a stage like that was a pretty special moment.
“At half-time I think we were swaying away from our structures, but we’ve nailed our process of coming out after half-time, which I’m really pleased about. It was just about being ruthless.
New Zealand will now play Australia in the final, after the Diamonds beat South Africa earlier on today. Although the final has a familiar look to it, Langman believes that it will be a new-look Silver Ferns who take to the court.
“It’s been a journey. If you look around the players who got the nod here, there’s been so much personal development, so for us although the game is hugely important, it was so much more than that, and I think today you could tell what it meant – so it’s very special.
“We’ve worked hard in terms of self-responsibility and expectation. When you put on that black dress, there’s a minimum standard that you need to meet, and there’s no budging on it.
“Today, you saw that come to the fore, even though you probably couldn’t see much chatter going on during play, there was eye contact and a nudge in the right direction. The players stood up today against a formidable England side.”
In the second semi-final of the day, the winning margin was again just two goals, as New Zealand seized momentum at the right time to win 47-45.
After coming off court, Harten said:
“I’m utterly devastated. That was the most realistic shot we’ve had of getting into the World Cup final and we have just fallen short of our goal.”
However, Harten acknowledged the fantastic performance of the Silver Ferns, who will now play familiar foes Australia in the final.
“I’ve played with some of those players (in the New Zealand team) and I know exactly what they were going to bring: skill integrity and passion, and that was they had for the whole 60 minutes.
“They just disrupted us. We were confident of taking it to them and throughout that game we were up in patches, so we did have the ability to do it and we just wavered at a critical moment but it’s another lesson learnt.
“All credit to New Zealand – they really deserved that victory today.”
The Silver Ferns repeated their 2015 World Cup semi-final performance to knock-out Tracey Neville’s side, who were backed by an incredible home crowd.
New Zealand had won 13 of the 14 World Cup meetings between the two sides, and the Silver Ferns raced out of the blocks here, as Jane Watson in particular forced early errors from England and Maria Folau was a perfect five from five in goal attempts.
The Roses didn’t get off the mark until Helen Housby converted to make it 5-1 four minutes into the contest.
The first goal on the board for the Roses proved to be a kick-start, and they began to settle into the contest, forcing New Zealand into errors of their own, as Jo Harten and Housby reduced the deficit to 6-5.
The frantic start to the contest continued for the remainder of the quarter with both sides’ defensive pressure forcing errors from their opponents as neither side could build a lead. Harten recovered from her slow shooting start to make her final three goal attempts but at the other end, Folau kept the scoreboard ticking for New Zealand as they led 12-9 at the end of the period.
England opened the scoring in the second quarter through Harten and they looked more confident in their all-round play, levelling the contest at 13-13.
A poor pass from Chelsea Pitman allowed New Zealand to retake the lead, and England began to pay for their sloppy passing when in possession and Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio shot at 90%.
The Silver Ferns led by six with six minutes remaining until half time, but England once again fought their way back into the contest. Geva Mentor and Eboni Usoro-Brown set the tempo defensively and – energised by the unbelievable noise created by the crowd – the Roses scored ten of the next 11 goals to completely turn the game on its head and lead 24-21 at half time.
Housby, who shot brilliantly in the first half, making 14 of her 16 goal attempts, picked up where she left off making her first goal attempt of the third quarter to answer Folau’s opening goal. New Zealand had the better of the opening exchanges though and they scored three straight goals to level the contest at 25-25.
England were finding a way to keep their noses in front, however, including some superb athleticism from Serena Guthrie as the two sides continued to trade goals.
The back-and-forth continued until a loose pass from Housby allowed New Zealand to force a turnover which Ekenasio converted, giving New Zealand a 32-31 lead.
It was the swing of momentum the Silver Ferns had been looking for and Ekenasio and Folau combined to extend New Zealand’s lead to four before Housby’s last shot of the quarter reduced the score to 36-33.
With the score at 38-34 early in the final quarter, Harten forced a New Zealand turnover which allowed England to reduce the deficit to two. However, the impressive shooting from Folau and Ekenasio didn’t allowed the Roses to build any kind of momentum.
Both sides were beginning to feel the pressure as the quarter ticked on as England once again reduced the deficit to two with five minutes remaining, but New Zealand kept responding as the contest continued to ebb and flow.
Harten made the score 45-43 with two minutes left on the clock, but New Zealand managed to control the tempo and keep possession, as their nerveless shooters helped to take them into a familiar-looking World Cup final.
England coach Tracey Neville said:
“I’m proud. The girls gave it their all and we were playing against a world-class team. It was do-or-die, the pressure was on the team and we didn’t start well enough. Some of the basic errors were things we haven’t done during this tournament, and we just didn’t have the legs at the end to get back into the game.”
New Zealand’s Laura Langman, said:
“Everyone out there did their jobs and did them well for 60 minutes. To play on a stage like that was a pretty special moment.”
New Zealand were narrowly defeated by a single goal by Australia on Thursday morning, but their hard work in the World Cup to that point was already sufficient to see them through to the semi-final stages.
Goal keeper Jane Watson, like many of her teammates, has had an excellent tournament so far, taking 12 interceptions in five matches so far at the M&S Bank Arena, including three in the game against Australia.
Reflecting on her time in Liverpool so far, the 29-year-old was keen to praise the crowds that have flocked to watch New Zealand’s fixtures.
“It’s awesome! Everybody’s being really friendly. There have been lots of supporters come over from New Zealand so that’s really nice to see. There’s a bit of rivalry between Australia and New Zealand so it’s great to get the crowd involved.”
The noise is all set to increase another notch for the semi-final against England, the team against whom Watson made the first of her 35 Kiwi appearances in 2016, not least because of the home advantage that the Roses will have.
Watson, though, is unconcerned by the prospect of facing the crowd as well as the England team on court.
“To us, it doesn’t really change anything. We’re going to go through and do everything we’ve done well.
“For them, it could mean that the pressure is on a little bit more, but we’re going to do our best. We’ll do our best, we’ll play netball and stick to our structures.
“(Preparations for the tournament have) been happening since August last year. Noels (coach Noeline Taurua) got stuck into us. The Quad Series was massive for us but I think in our few weeks leading up to this has been really important as well.
“We headed to the Sunshine Coast for a training week. We had a training tournament in New Zealand. We played some men, which were outstanding, and then we’ve come here. We’ve been really fortunate in our build-up and that’s set us for a really good tournament.”
With two games of the competition left, starting with the semi-final against England on Saturday, squeezing every last drop out of each player is crucial at this stage.
Watson was pleased with her side’s performance against the Diamonds, despite the defeat, recognising the need to take forward the positives.
“We’re still really happy with our performance (despite the late defeat). First quarter, we really weathered the storm, and then I think from then I think we built each quarter, which was really nice and really pleasing.
“We definitely take the positives. Just to know that we are in it and we’re keeping up is really pleasing. I guess we’re just lucky that wasn’t final, but we need to know when it comes to the final, we need to be nailing that and doing everything we can.
“I think it will be those little ‘one per-cent-ers’ (that will make the biggest difference). Doing all of our basics well and trying to get a little bit closer a little bit earlier, not letting that gap get too far at the start.
“I think we’ve had the same game plan most of the tournament. It’s just about really doing everybody’s job well. We’ll make little tweaks – we’ll talk about it and see where we go from there.”
The match to decide the winner of Group F more than lived up to its billing, coming down to the final few seconds as a New Zealand miss ensured Australia ran out winners by a one-goal margin: 50-49.
The Diamonds had established a significant lead at one point, but the Silver Ferns came roaring back to set up the astonishing closing minutes.
Of the fantastic finale to the game, Watson said:
“It’s just that rivalry we have with them. It’s always a tough battle and they definitely weren’t going to give up at half time and we knew that.
“I think it’s just that Aussie against New Zealand thing – it’s always going to go right down to the final whistle like it did.”
The close nature of the contest between the Antipodean rivals has set the scene perfectly for Saturday’s semi-finals, where they will be joined by England and South Africa.
The hosts face the Proteas this evening, the winner of which will face New Zealand in the last four, while the beaten side will tackle Australia for a place in the final.
In a frantic, end-to-end frantic match between the two sides of one of sport’s biggest rivalries, a last-gasp New Zealand miss ensured that the Australians took a 50-49 victory, topping Group F in the process.
The Diamonds are world number one and have won eight of the last seven meetings between these two teams.
In 15 previous World Cup clashes between the sides, who both won their groups in Preliminaries stage one, there had never been a winning margin of more than 11 goals, with a third of those games decided by just one goal.
The opening quarter played out exactly in the manner in which was anticipated, with the speed and quality on show from both sides of the very highest order.
Caitlin Bassett and Steph Wood, however, were the attacking pair who found the net most frequently, missing one shot each as they scored 13 in the first 15 minutes.
Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio notched 10 between them, meaning New Zealand, the fourth-ranked team in the world, were trailing by three at the quarter mark.
The physically intense battle was proving to be a strong contender for the game of the tournament so far, and that continued as the match progressed.
New Zealand’s veteran goal defence Casey Kopua, who will retire after the tournament, and goalkeeper Jane Watson, had their work cut out at times against the speed and movement of Australia’s attack, but the Kiwis’ front players were as much of a handful at the other end.
A flurry of goals early on in the second quarter, with the teams taking it in turns to earn a cheer from the lively M&S Bank Arena crowd, continued the neck-and-neck nature of the encounter.
The Diamonds threatened to pull away, opening up a two-goal lead in the quarter at one stage, and a five-goal lead overall, but New Zealand were not to be put off.
The Kiwis dragged themselves level in the quarter on a couple of occasions but ultimately succumbed to the ruthless Bassett and Wood once again. At the interval, Australia led 28-22.
Having won the first two quarters by three goals, Australia needed to match that average in the second half to record a record margin of victory against the Kiwis.
Bassett and Wood needed no encouragement to continue finding the net, but New Zealand were in no mood to collapse.
The Kiwis won their first quarter of the match by 14 goals to 12 – closing the overall scoreline to 40-36 – to set up an exciting finish.
New Zealand pushed hard to draw level – getting within one goal with 10 minutes left on the clock and then again with 90 seconds to go – but even when they did level the scoreline, Australia edged in front once again.
New Zealand then worked the ball into a shooting position in the closing seconds of the game, but the usually-reliable Folau was unable to take the chance, meaning a sensational game finished 50-49 to Australia.
This result means Australia will face the loser of tonight’s Group G clash between England and South Africa in the semi-finals, while New Zealand will play the winner of that game in their last four tie.
Australia’s Liz Watson said:
“We put out a great first half and maybe then dropped off in the second, but we were ahead and they were chasing us, so we needed to stay calm, composed and keep scoring.”
New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua said:
“I love that kind of game – it was great. One of the things I’m really pleased about is the team we had to be able to make changes and get ourselves back level there. I think the changes at certain times made a difference – Australia maybe didn’t react to those changes as well.”