New Zealand prove to be dominant force with World Cup success

New Zealand shocked Australia to claim their fifth World Cup success. Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

New Zealand may have entered the final as underdogs, but they weren't settling for silver and managed to dethrone Australia in an epic encounter.

For a second successive major tournament, the Australian Diamonds were robbed of gold with a one goal margin, by a team that were not favourites to win.

The Silver Ferns ended the Diamonds' World Cup dominance and prevented the three-time defending champions from claiming their 12th world title, despite entering the competition ranked world No.4.

At the Commonwealth Games, New Zealand finished fourth, an all-time low, and heads rolled.

But in just 11 months, Noeline Taurua has worked her magic on the national team and got them a seat back at the top table -- even more impressively that she's done it on a part-time basis.

In a tournament that was won on the smallest of margins, the difference came from the experienced players in the Kiwi squad, with Laura Langman, Casey Kopua, Maria Folau and Katrina Rore all boasting more than 100 caps.

Even Taurua herself said: "Our fossils stood up and led from the front."

Bringing Langman and Kopua back into the fold was one of Taurua's best moves and it certainly paid off, as the battle-hardened veterans fought tirelessly for every ball, with Kopua snatching a game-defining intercept.

The world title was 16 years in the making for several of her squad, but it was a perfect send off for the defensive power house Kopua.

Kopua wore her black dress for the 112th, and final time as she helped contain the Diamonds' razor sharp attack, ensuring that her team didn't settle for silver for a fourth consecutive World Cup.

The power house, who was named most-valuable-player of the final, described Taurua as 'outstanding' and it's hard to disagree.

Taurua has got the Silver Ferns playing the style of netball that they're renowned for -- playing with finesse, impressive strength, speed and confidence.

Prior to the start of the tournament, Diamonds' captain Caitlin Bassett warned competitors not to underestimate the Silver Ferns and the confidence that Taurua could give a team.

When the Trans-Tasman sides met in the preliminary stages, New Zealand delivered an incredibly gutsy performance and despite losing by one goal, they proved they were, once more, a force to be reckoned with.

In the 2015 World Cup, Australia lost to the Silver Ferns in the early stages of the competition and beat them by one in the final, this time Taurua's side were spurred on by the defeat and it was their turn to inflict the one goal margin misery.

The Diamonds came into this competition ranked No.1 in the world and were favourites to win, but within the last year they have settled for second twice on the world stage.

But Bassett, one of the few in the squad to survive a mass cull from the 2015 World Cup winning squad, is confident that the new wave of players coming through will ensure they retain their top spot.

"We have a fresh new team, playing in their first World Cup, so for many of our athletes it's not their last, thankfully," she said.

Bassett reflected on her team's errors in the final and said: "We didn't keep the ball in hand. We were patient when we played them last time, but I think we just opened up a little too quickly, we needed one more pass before putting the ball into the circle."

Australia coach Lisa Alexander opted to include Bassett in her starting line up, after resting her for the semis, and her decision paid off.

In the opening quarter, the formidable shooter netted her first three attempts, while at the other end Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio missed three attempts in the opening five minutes.

The game was incredibly tense, as the first half saw the sides go goal for goal, a fitting score line for a clash between two titans of global netball.

Folau found her feet and proved why she's the most capped shooter ever for the Ferns, as New Zealand capitalised on mistakes from the Diamonds, edging the score line to 28-25 by the halfway mark.

The Ferns withstood a storming comeback from Australia, who closed a seven goal lead in the third quarter to just one, in the dying minutes.

Despite having lost six of the last seven meetings with Australia, Taurua's side remained confident in their zonal defence and appeared unfazed by the Diamonds' threat.

Australia came out firing in the final quarter, but it was New Zealand who got the ultimate revenge, for the earlier loss, with an agonisingly close 52-51 victory.

The thrilling final was the perfect way to round off 60 matches of netball in Liverpool and it certainly threw the world standings into disarray.

While a Trans-Tasman final is nothing new in netball's history, the performances of the top four in this tournament has proven that the competitive standard of netball has improved dramatically on the international stage.

The Diamonds were roughed up by South Africa in the semi-finals and only progressed with a two goal advantage, beating the Spar Proteas 55-53.

Karla Pretorius was even named player of the tournament for her incredible efforts in defence, as her team made the semis for the first time in 25 years.

New Zealand may have been a thorn in the England Roses' side in major tournaments for several years -- having knocked them out of the last two World Cups and 2014 Commonwealth Games semi-finals -- but the hosts didn't make a win easy for the newly crowned world champions.

After inflicting misery on Australia at the Commonwealth Games, Tracey Neville's Roses have grown in confidence and beaten all top teams within the last year, but this tournament they had to make do with a bronze medal.

The gap at the top has certainly narrowed and with investment, the standard around the world can continue to improve.