The Silver Ferns finished New Zealand's Commonwealth Games campaign in brilliant style today by beating world champions Australia 66-64 to win the netball gold medal.Â The match, one of the most memorable ever played, was level at 47-47 at the end of fulltime, and when the 14 minutes of extra time was played, the score was 58-58.
From there it went into golden goal - the first team to lead by two would win.Â The teams, so evenly matched, fought all the way to 64-64 before Maria Tutaia, New Zealand's star player, sank the winning shots.Â Tutaia had a superb game, shooting 41 from 50 attempts. What's more, many of her attempts were from well out from the post.Â She shouldered a huge burden. Irene van Dyk, who is generally New Zealand's shooting kingpin, landed 25 goals.
New Zealand trailed 10-9 at quarter-time and 23-20 at halftime, but had a decisive third quarter and led 35-33 at three-quarter time.Â In the final quarter the Silver Ferns went ahead by seven, but some accurate shooting by Catherine Cox, introduced at goal shoot, brought Australia back into the match in the final few moments.
Tutaia was lost for words afterwards. "I knew it would be like that," she said. "It was always likely to be a close one."
She said the pressure of the situation had got to her in the exciting final stages. "I was nervous out there. I was cramping and just trying to sink the shots."
When Tutaia landed her last shot she leapt for joy and the New Zealanders converged in a circle of laughing and cheering.
For New Zealand, Casey Williams and Katrina Grant played the entire game in the defence circle. Joline Henry and Anna Scarlett split the wing defence duties. Laura Langman played the full game at centre and Temepara George and Liana Barrett-Chase shared the wing attack job.Â Barrett-Chase was extremely effective, adding punch to the attacking effort at just the right time.
The result means that New Zealand have successfully defended their Commonwealth Games title. The match itself was like a replica of the final the two teams played at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, except that on that occasion it was the Australians who got there in sudden death extra time.