Aus­tralia sur­vive net­ball Quad Se­ries scare against South Africa

The Guardian Australia - - Sport - Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press

Gre­tel Tip­pett stood tallest in the ab­sence of cap­tain Caitlin Bas­sett as a rusty Aus­tralia beat South Africa 62-45 in the open­ing Quad Se­ries Test in Liver­pool.

The world cham­pi­ons trailed the fifth-ranked Proteas 16-11 af­ter a hap­haz­ard first quar­ter on Sun­day but grad­u­ally found their feet at Echo Arena, the venue for this year’s World Cup.

They did it with­out world class goal shoot Bas­sett, who suf­fered a frac­tured fore­arm dur­ing a warm-up match in Manch­ester on Thurs­day, rul­ing her out of the tour­na­ment.

Ex­pe­ri­enced shooter Caitlin Th­waites was solid in the first half be­fore be­ing re­placed by goal at­tack spe­cial­ist Steph Wood.

Tip­pett was an im­por­tant con­stant through­out at goal at­tack, named player of the match af­ter land­ing 30 of 32 shots. She un­earthed a slick con­nec­tion with Wood as Aus­tralia won the fi­nal quar­ter 19-7.

Lisa Alexan­der’s play­ers have barely seen a net­ball court since win­ning the Con­stel­la­tion Cup last Oc­to­ber and it showed early on. How­ever, she didn’t want ex­cuses for a list­less start.

“South Africa did some beau­ti­ful things in that first quar­ter and we were caught nap­ping,” Alexan­der told AAP. “It’s not ac­cept­able to be hang­ing around for a quar­ter, try­ing to get in­ter­cepts or ad­just­ing to the penalty count. We can’t af­ford that against New Zealand or Eng­land.”

The Proteas sped the ball down­court too eas­ily, prompt­ing Alexan­der to in­tro­duce Jo We­ston at goal de­fence and Jamie-Lee Price at wing de­fence to stem the flow in the first half.

The key changes came up front in the sec­ond half, when Wood and wing at­tack Kelsey Browne used their fresh­ness to stretch the Proteas while Liz Wat­son looked more com­fort­able when shifted back to cen­tre.

Wood’s ex­tra speed trou­bled South African goal keep Phumza Maweni, who had proven a hand­ful for Th­waites.

“Phumza is a very very good player but when we put Steph on for her, she just didn’t cope with that move­ment,” Alexan­der said. “It’s a mat­ter of be­ing un­pre­dictable and Caity [Th­waites] will work hard to ad­dress some of those lit­tle ar­eas we think she can get bet­ter in.”

South African coach and for­mer Aus­tralian men­tor Norma Plum­mer said the ath­letic Tip­pett was the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween the teams. “Tip­pett was ter­rific. She’s very phys­i­cally strong and she’s very hard to han­dle.”

It was Aus­tralia’s 450th all-time Test and they main­tained their per­fect record against South Africa in 39 meet­ings.

Aus­tralia’s next op­po­nents on Sun­day (AEDT) are New Zealand, who went down 54-41 to Com­mon­wealth Games cham­pi­ons Eng­land.

Gre­tel Tip­pett was named player of the match af­ter step­ping in for the in­jured Caitlin Bas­sett. Pho­to­graph: An­thony Devlin/PA

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