Australia ended their Birmingham takeover campaign in stunning scenes, claiming gold in a thrilling 55-51 win over Jamaica.
The brilliant finish secured the 1000th gold medal for Australia in Commonwealth Games history, while the Diamonds also became the first netball team to win it after losing a pool lead match.
After the shock loss to Jamaica earlier in this tournament, the Diamonds had to reach the gold medal game the hard way, knocking out 2018 champions England along the way.
It was Sarah Klau and Cara Koenen from the bench who dragged Australia through the line, with Klau silencing Sunshine Girls superstar Jhaniele Fowler.
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Netball commentator Cath Cox praised Klau’s “game of a lifetime” as she finished with five deflections.
The Diamonds defense stepped up in the gold medal clash with Klau, Courtney Bruce at GD and Ash Brazill all getting plenty of balls back.
“The changes worked for Australia, didn’t they,” said commentator Sue Gaudion.
Gretel Bueta and Koenen didn’t miss in a magnificent display of shooting in the second half.
Bueta finished with 37 goals at 100% while Koenen had 15/15 after entering the field in a revamped Australian attack that saw Steph Wood (3/5) benched in the second term.
For Jamaica, Fowler had 46/47 but it wasn’t enough for Jamaica’s historic gold medal.
In stunning scenes, 2018 gold medalists England failed to clinch bronze in a remarkable upset earlier in the day.
The Roses were beaten 55-48 by New Zealand, who won their first medal since 2014.
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The Diamonds booked a place in the final after beating hosts England 60-51 in the semis, while Jamaica booked their first birth in the final with a 67-51 win over New Zealand.
And both teams opted for the same starting lineups for the gold medal encounter.
The Aussies were under pressure from the opening pass as Steph Wood was forced back onto the crossbar before the opening goal.
Ash Brazill got the first tip but it was Liz Watson with the big turnover when she didn’t feed Bueta with enough height.
Brazill had a second deflection early on Khadijah Williams, but miscommunication between Wood and Bueta saw Jamaican keeper Shamera Sterling get the deflection.
Wood hit the ball in the face but still managed to unleash his first shot of the night.
“O falcon! said commentator Sue Gaudion.
“You can see the tears and the red mark on the face.”
“The Aussies just don’t look fluid in attack,” added Cath Cox.
“They can’t easily break into the circle here.”
It took a big Courtney Bruce interception past Jhaniele Fowler to spark the Diamonds after eight minutes.
Wood let the ball go long to Bueta and Australia were suddenly knocked out by three.
When Watson pounced on bad hands from Jodi-Ann Ward, Bueta converted and the Australians’ shaky attack began to settle.
As the pressure from the Diamonds increased, Watson again picked up a loose ball in midfield as Wood cleared his second shot for the game.
Nicole Dixon-Rochester gave Sterling the tip on the edge of the Diamonds circle to draw one for the Sunshine Girls.
Latanya Wilson netted a massive interception past Bueta under the post as Jamaica closed within two on the first substitution.
Sterling immediately got involved in the second with a big deflection of Moloney’s pass into the pocket.
And Shanice Beckford was right as the Sunshine Girls equalized with a four-game winning streak.
A big ball call held on Bueta could have given Jamaica the lead, but Watson took the pocket from Ward.
A second miss from Wood saw the Sunshine Girls march down the field as the Diamonds took the lead.
Bruce pushed towards GD when Klau was introduced, but that did little to stop Jamaica’s momentum as they opened up a four-goal margin.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich turned to the bench again with Cara Koenen coming on as GS and Bueta switched to the more familiar GA as Brazill got involved with a big interception on the sideline.
Bueta converted back-to-back goals to put Australia within one with six minutes remaining.
Klau got the big deflection on Fowler which Moloney smothered as Koenen then gave the Diamonds the lead.
“The Diamonds gave this defense something new to watch,” Gaudion said.
“The movement they both provide is also two mobile shooters,” Cox added.
“The Jamaican defense remained silent (by the introduction of Koenen).”
But a poorly executed ball from Watson spat possession on the baseline.
At halftime, the scores were tied at 29 all.
Klau took the contact call on Fowler when he took first place to start the third and Bueta drained the shot as Australia took an early lead.
The Diamonds keeper got her hands on another ball past Fowler who fell short and the margin increased to five.
“You can see she’s starting from behind but her footwork to get around is impeccable,” Cox praised.
“Jamaica should have learned their lesson – it happened three times. They need to put the ball higher.
Bruce got involved and picked up an interception in midfield as the run over the bases stretched to seven to start the term.
“Everything seems too easy here for the Diamonds,” Cox said.
When Dixon-Rochester threw it away from the center pass, Gaudion feared “the wheels would come off.”
The Jamaican center received a warning moments later as discipline began to break down.
Adean Thomas was introduced to WA for Jamaica’s first squad change and she immediately found Fowler at long range.
“Brazil sent Williams to the bench tonight. It wasn’t necessarily the case three days ago,” Gaudion said.
The Jamaicans were held to just four goals in the opening nine minutes in a “remarkable” defensive display from Australia.
Klau again disrupted play and Australia opened a 10-goal lead in the third term.
“Sarah Klau has the match of her life,” Cox praised.
“What a difference she made.”
An unusual mistake by Bueta, as she walked out of court, allowed the Sunshine Girls to cut the lead.
The crowd got involved when Brazill came up heavily against his Collingwood teammate Ward with seconds left in the third term.
But that didn’t stop Fowler from scoring his 35th goal after the buzzer.
As they did in their pool game, which they ended up losing, Australia led by six goals when they last changed.
And a rare contact call on GS Koenen gave Jamaica the best start. But Beckford couldn’t convert with his stepping call spitting the ball out.
Sterling got involved, having disappeared in the third term, with two quick deflections, but the ball ended up in the hands of the Australians each time and Bueta kept the scoreline in slow motion.
Bueta bravely fired a high ball over the baseline with Wilson taking his landing space. But that didn’t stop his remarkable precision with the goal 32 out of 32.
Bruce was lucky to get away with a big contact that ended in his winning possession and Bueta patiently extended the lead to seven.
Another costly Sunshine Girls turnover through midfield was not converted as Bueta was penalized for contact.
And suddenly, Jamaica came within four goals as the Diamonds’ attack crumbled again, much like the Pool loss earlier in this tournament.
Courtney Bruce won the ball for the Diamonds as Klau got a big deflection past Fowler – no small feat as Australia faced a big challenge.
“A standout performance since stepping onto the court,” Cox said of Klau.
Players cried on the bench in the dying minutes as the Diamonds won their fourth Commonwealth Games gold medal in netball.