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Diamonds defensive guns bring fire in NZ

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Diamonds skipper Clare McMeniman says her side’s defensive combinations are beginning to bear fruit after a clinical 12-point Constellation Cup victory.

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McMeniman lined up alongside goal keeper Sharni Layton at the back in Auckland and duly kept Silver Ferns gun Bailey Mes quiet in a 62-50 win.

The Diamonds rear-guard successfully pressured Mes and her teammates out of the game, halting the flow of ball from midcourt and launching quick counters.

McMeniman and Layton had made a combined four deflections and two intercepts, while wing defence Gabi Simpson chipped in with three intercepts and deflections apiece.

The result gives the world champions a 2-1 lead in the four-game series and near-insurmountable 22-point goal advantage, making their retention of the cup a formality.

“We were very clear with what our roles were defensively and how we were going to play and we know Sharni does have the opportunity to win ball,” the 31-year-old McMeniman said.

“What we had spoken about today was that we wanted to win ball at the front, we didn’t want to have to wait until it got to the circle.”

McMeniman, who took over the captaincy from the unavailable Laura Geitz in 2016, said her side had failed to produce in their second-Test defeat in Launceston but brought renewed intensity in their win on Saturday.

They had also grown more accustomed to the style of new Silver Ferns forward Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who played a half at goal attack before swapping for the experienced Maria Tutaia.

She then returned in the fourth quarter at shooter alongside Tutaia.

“We’re sort of becoming more familiar with their patterns of play and the same thing when Maria came on, it was a bit more comfortable for us,” McMeniman said.

“We’re still having to adjust and adapt when we’re on the court but I think our communication was a little bit better.”

Simpson, 23, felt her side had put themselves in better positions to win the ball through increased on-court aggression.

They had looked to grind the Silver Ferns out of the contest.

“We didn’t want to give them any space and we knew from that, intercepts and touches would come,” Simpson said.

“We wanted to step up and I think we were able to do that, we made them work a lot harder to get every ball.”

The final Test will be played in Invercargill on Thursday.

AAP

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