Silver Ferns upset Australia to capture title

The Silver Ferns' remarkable rise is complete.

New Zealand stunned three-time defending champions Australia 52-51 in a thrilling Netball World Cup final in Liverpool on Sunday (Monday morning NZ time). 

It completes a massive 11-month turnaround from the Ferns under coach Noeline Taurua who took over last August, following last April's harrowing performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games under previous coach Janine Southby. 

New Zealand last won the World Cup trophy in 2003 in Jamaica, losing finals to Australia in 2007, 2011, and 2015.

Victory completed a fairytale ending for Ferns defensive legend Casey Kopua, who was playing her 112th and final test for New Zealand. She might not be the only one playing her last game for New Zealand with Laura Langman and Maria Folau's futures with the side uncertain.

Taurua's contract with the Ferns also ended after the final whistle and you can guarantee Netball New Zealand will do everything in their power to retain the genius coach. She will return to guide her successful Sunshine Coast Lightning side in Australia's Super Netball, looking to lead them to a third straight title. 

The Ferns had to withstand a frantic finish from Australia, who rallied from 41-34 down late in the third quarter, closing to within a goal at various stages late in the game. 

New Zealand's high fitness levels shone through in the final term with the Ferns refusing to panic as Australia drew near. Every time it looked like Australia was about to push in front on the scoreboard, New Zealand replied with a crunch goal or key defensive gain. 

Holding a 28-25 halftime lead, the Ferns blew Australia away in the third quarter, usually the time of the game when the Diamonds pull clear from the opposition.

Five minutes into the third quarter, the Ferns' lead had grown to 33-26 with mistakes creeping into Australia's play as New Zealand made a 5-1 start to the second half.

Late in the third quarter, the Ferns lead by seven (41-34), their largest lead of the game, but you can't keep Australia down for long. The Diamonds rallied late in the term to head into the final quarter, trailing 41-37.

The first half was a titanic struggle with the sides going goal for goal in the second quarter.

New Zealand finished the first half with a late surge, scoring the last three goals to take a deserved 28-25 lead into the main break.

Australia had won six of the past seven matches against the Ferns since Taurua took over as Ferns' coach.

Getting off to a strong start was critical for the Ferns, but Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Folau missed three attempts in the opening five minutes as Australia rocketed out to a 6-3 lead. 

It was a sluggish start from the Ferns, which was best summed up by a clumsy spill from Folau along the baseline.

Jane Watson's outstanding play continued, snaffling several intercepts early on, to make sure the Ferns stayed within touching distance of the Diamonds.

Despite missing four of their 14 attempts in the first quarter, the Ferns went to the quarter break level at 10-10, largely through the amount of turnovers they were able to force out of Australia. 

New Zealand hit the front for the first time in the game early in the second quarter through Ekenasio at 11-10.

Folau's shooting struggles carried through to the second term, but whenever she did miss, Ekenasio was there to scoop up the rebound. She got better as the game wore on, finishing with 28 goals from 35 attempts.

The Ferns finished the first half with a late flourish, scoring the last three goals to take a 28-25 advantage into the halftime break. 

Clearly unimpressed by her side's finish to the half, Australian coach Lisa Alexander went to her bench bringing on Gretel Tippett at goal attack for Steph Wood. Sarah Klau, raw at international level, also replaced Courtney Bruce at goal keep in a bid to shut down Folau, who frustrated them in the second term.

Five minutes into the third quarter, the Ferns lead had grown to 33-26 with mistakes creeping into Australia's play as New Zealand made a 5-1 start to the second half.  

Australia looked rattled as the goals mounted for the Ferns in the third quarter. The Diamonds were unable to stem the flow of ball firing into Folau and Ekenasio, who were hitting from all over the circle. 

An Australian comeback was always on the cards, but this time the Ferns stood firm when it mattered most to capture netball's biggest prize.