Silver Ferns fend off late comeback by Australia to draw first blood in Constellation Cup

The Silver Ferns have fended off a late comeback attempt to open the Constellation Cup with a gritty 49-44 win over Australia in Christchurch this evening.

The players had to bring all the atmosphere themselves tonight with no crowds allowed to attend under the Level 2 restrictions imposed earlier this week, but New Zealand managed to do just that and built momentum with it.

Dame Noeline Taurua's squad built a comprehensive lead throughout the match with Maia Wilson and Ameliaranne Ekenasio on shooting duty, leaving the hosts with a nine-goal lead heading into the final quarter.

Wilson led the way with a 31-from-40 performance while Ekenasio added 18-from-23.

However, Australia came roaring back in the final quarter through the inexperienced attacking combination of Cara Koenen, Kiera Austin and Verity Charles to outscore the Silver Ferns 13-9.

The surge wasn't enough, though, with the Silver Ferns drawing first blood in the four-Test series.

New Zealand's defence caused issues for Australia throughout the night, with the Diamonds coughing up 27 general play turnovers in the game in comparison to the Silver Ferns' 18.

The Diamonds also finished with a brutally high penalty count, having the whistle blown against them 69 times in the match while the Silver Ferns only conceded 38.

The win is just the fifth time in 13 Tests the Silver Ferns have taken down Australia since coming under Dame Noeline in 2018 but puts them on the right track to claim the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012.

Australia will have a chance to respond tomorrow night in Christchurch.