Diamonds winning streak intact, but only just
THE Diamonds survived a major scare to protect one of the longest winning streaks in Australian sport with their 58-52 Quad Series defeat of South Africa in Canberra on Wednesday night.
The Australians kept their 54-year winning streak against South Africa intact with the hard-fought six goal victory in their second Test of the Quad Series.
Prior to the match Australia had an average winning margin of 21 goals against South Africa with the six goal thriller the closest between the two countries in 50 years.
The Diamonds - who incurred around 50 penalties in the first half - had to surge from behind in the second to achieve the feat after trailing a SPAR Proteas side now coached by former Australian boss Norma Plummer.
"They certainly kept edging back at us," said captain Caitlin Bassett.
"We knew they would be showing a lot of improvement and we were ready for that.
"But it was definitely too close at times."
The close call comes less than eight months before Australia begins its bid to defend the Commonwealth Games title on the Gold Coast.
After falling by just seven goals against New Zealand on Saturday, the Proteas more than matched it with the experimenting Diamonds in the first half of Wednesday's match.
But the class of the Australians, who beat England 50-54 in their series opener, showed through in the end with the Diamonds never headed in the second half.
South Africa paid for a slow start to the game, trailing 4-0 early before finding their feet to match the Australians goal for goal in the first quarter, going to the break trailing 14-11.
But in the second period a five goal run saw South Africa forge ahead by two, prompting an immediate shooting change at the Australian end with Gretel Tippett joining match MVP Caitlin Thwaites as a replacement for Tegan Philip.
At half time the two sides were level at 27-27 before the Diamonds strung together their own five goal run to take back control.
Going into the final period Australia lead 44-39 before taking the match by six.
Thwaites ended the match with 30:33 to earn the top game honours with Philip netting 5:8, Tippett 16:20 and captain Bassett 7:7 in her final period of play.
Australia now heads to New Zealand to take on a Silver Ferns side weakened by the loss of their star shooter Maria Tutaia, the fiancée of Wallaby Israel Folau, who is on bereavement leave.
Her absence was noticeable as the Silver Ferns were downed by England in a shock 49-45 upset on Wednesday night in New Zealand.
A win in Sunday's Quad Series finale will see the Diamonds defend their crown in the series played between Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa.
It will also give the Australians a significant morale boost before their final international series of the year, the Constellation Cup in October.