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Australia outclass Silver Ferns in Durban

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/01/2017

New Zealand never recovered from a lethargic start to lose 57-50 to Australia in the opening Quad Series Test in Durban.

The world champion Diamonds took a major step towards retaining their title following the start-to-finish win in which their attack flowed smoothly despite the absence of several key players.

It was a fifth loss for the Silver Ferns in their last six trans-Tasman Tests and leaves them with work to do ahead of Tests against England and South Africa in the UK next week.

World No.3 England beat the fifth-ranked home side 60-55 in the other game in Durban.

The Silver Ferns were close to full strength although they were without ineligible centre Laura Langman for the first time in a Test since 2004, along with injured wing defence Kayla Cullen.

Coach Janine Southby handed Waikato Bay of Plenty midcourter Sam Sinclair a Test debut at wing defence.

However, Sinclair and her teammates struggled to halt the momentum of the Diamonds, who were resting key shooters Caitlin Bassett and Natalie Medhurst, along with wing attack Madi Robinson.

Southby says while the lack of preparation time for the off-season Test was a problem, it's not an excuse for the opening exchanges which left them trailing 12-4.

The lead was still eight heading into the final quarter before a 6-1 run reduced the scoreline to 51-48 before Australia surged again.

"We're gutted with the result, the poor start really hurt us," Southby said.

"Defensively we didn't get enough gains and we were slow to put pressure on.

"You just can't do that against Australia, we need a lot more ball."

Southby may address her defensive makeup.

New Zealand were more effective in the second half when Jane Watson replaced veteran Anna Harrison at goal keep - their only switch during the Test.

Centre Shannon Francois and wing attack Grace Rasmussen were solid in finding shooters Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia.

Goal shoot Mes sunk 25 of 26 shots while Tutaia managed 25 from 32 in a combined percentage slightly down on Australian pair Caitlin Thwaites (35 from 39) and Susan Pettitt (22 from 26).

"The attackers found their connections again and they let the ball go, which is what we've been working on, being able to play with courage," Southby said.

Australia face South Africa in Durban on Tuesday while New Zealand meet England in Liverpool on Thursday.

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