Update: 10:00PM THE Silver Ferns have struck the first blow in the Constellation Cup, beating the Australian Diamonds 55-51 at the Velodrome in Invercargill tonight.
Laura Langman was named player of the match for her tireless efforts in the midcourt but Joline Henry's efforts were every bit as meritorious.
The experienced wing attack snaffled more than her share of intercepts and turned back the clock with some uncompromising defence.
The opening exchanges were even but midway through the quarter the visitors made consecutive turnovers which allowed the Silver Ferns to build a 19-14 advantage by the first break.
Maria Tutaia dropped in some shots from deep in the circle forcing Australian coach Lisa Alexander to make some changes. Bianca Chatfield came on at goal defence and speedy centre Kimberley Ravaillion also injected into the match.
Tutaia kept hitting her target and the gap ballooned to seven goals. Van Dyk struggled to get into space, though, and a late rally saw the visitors close to within two goals.
Leana de Bruin replaced Katrina Grant in the goal keep bib and her presence helped spark the defensive effort. Henry stretched for an intercept and Casey Kopua pulled off a volleyball-style block and gather the ball in during same motion.
Anna Thompson also made an impact when she replaced debutant Courtney Tairi at wing attack. The Silver Ferns produced a telling seven-goal run and nursed a healthy eight-goal lead with 15min remaining.
The lead peaked at 11 goals before Australia's trademark fourth quarter rally pruned the deficit.
The Silver Ferns were perhaps a little guilty of sitting on their lead and becoming tentative.
New Zealand 55 ( Irene van Dyk 27 from 30, Maria Tutaia 28/35)
Australia 51 (Caitlin Bassett 31/31, Erin Bell 15/18, Natalie Medhurst 5/6)
Quarter scores: 1st 19-14, 2nd 31-29, 3rd 45-37