New Zealand has won the Constellation Cup for the first time in eight editions, sealing the series with a 45-43 win in the fourth Test in Christchurch.
The Australians went in needing to win by at least two goals to keep the trophy, and at least three goals to win the series — any other result would see New Zealand claim victory.
There was a different atmosphere in Christchurch, as crowds were allowed in the arena for the first time this series.
For the third straight game, Australia began with Kiera Austin and Cara Koenen at goal attack and goal shooter.
It was a scrappy contest early on, with turnovers aplenty.
Two Watsons were to the fore — Liz Watson was the provider from the midfield for the Diamonds, while Jane Watson was leading the way in the Silver Ferns’ defence.
New Zealand was struggling to get the ball into its shooting circle, as the Diamonds crowded the home side out.
The home side was focusing on Cara Koenen, which left Austin with space. She took advantage, scoring five of Australia’s first seven goals.
The Diamonds led 7-3, then the Silver Ferns closed the gap to two before Australia put another burst on.
When Austin and Koenen combined for a goal, it was 10-5 with just over two minutes left in the term.
By quarter-time, Maia Wilson and skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio were a combined 6/8 for the Silver Ferns, while Austin had 9/10 on her own. In a low-scoring start, the Diamonds had extended to a 12-6 advantage at the first break.
It was a different game at the start of the second quarter. The Silver Ferns stepped up the defensive pressure, forcing turnovers and making Austin take difficult shots.
Ekenasio lifted her game as New Zealand scored the first five goals of the term to get back to 12-11, prompting the home crowd to raise the decibel levels.
The play was opening up and the Diamonds went up 14-11, before a couple of overzealous defensive efforts left the visitors empty at the back.
The Silver Ferns were trying to keep things tight near half-time, but Australia pushed the score out to 22-16 before Wilson grabbed a goal after the whistle to leave New Zealand trailing by five at the half.
Silver Ferns make their move in the third term
The third term began with Australia in command, as the Diamonds rushed out to a 27-19 lead.
Gaps were appearing in the New Zealand defence. But the home side hit back, led by the speed and agility of midcourter Kimiora Poi.
The Silver Ferns went on a run of goals, prompting Australian coach Stacey Marinkovich to switch Liz Watson from wing attack to centre.
New Zealand kept scoring, peeling off seven in a row.
Wilson tied the scores at 28-28 with 4:48 left in the third, and then the home side took the lead with four minutes to go, prompting a deafening roar from the crowd.
The Diamonds seemed to lose confidence in their shooting, but one last effort saw Australia grab the last three goals, including one from Austin as time ran out.
With one quarter to go, Australia led 31-30. The Diamonds switched Koenen to goal attack and Austin to goal shooter for the final 15 minutes.
Teams were going goal for goal, with every final pass vital.
Australia had the lead but the pressure was mounting, and a contact penalty against the Diamonds ruined an attacking opportunity.
The home side took advantage, and scores were level again with 10:50 left.
A huge defensive play from New Zealand set up another goal to Wilson, giving the home side the lead with nine to go.
The pressure was huge, but the Silver Ferns seemed to have more space in attack.
As time ticked down, the onus was on the Diamonds to pull ahead again if they wanted to win the series.
Australia was pushing passes and taking risks at the back, but the visitors could not seem to stop Wilson and get a chance to gain ground.
When she scored her 33rd goal with three minutes left, New Zealand led by two, and the goal shooter repeated the effort 45 seconds later to push the lead to three.
With Australia needing turnovers, New Zealand ran down the clock and coach Noeline Taurua’s world champion side sealed the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012.
For New Zealand, Wilson shot 36/40, while Ekenasio had 9/12 with a game-high 19 assists.
In attack for the Diamonds, Austin had 28/35 while Koenen shot 15/19. Liz Watson finished with 17 assists.