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Ian Chadband

Diamonds shine in historic Nations Cup win over Uganda

Jamie-Lee Price was player of the match in Australia's emphatic win over Uganda in the Nations Cup. (Brian Cassey/AAP PHOTOS)

Australia's world netball champions have earned an historic win over Uganda, just 24 hours before having to face a rather stiffer task in the final of the Nations Cup against old rivals and hosts England.

The Diamonds, excited at playing their first-ever international against Africa's world No.7 team, proved far too strong for the 'She Cranes' with a comfortable 63-49 victory in Leeds on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).

Uganda made coach Stacey Marinkovich's team work hard in the first half but were eventually overwhelmed after a raft of changes to the Australian line-up as the Diamonds completed their group campaign unbeaten, following wins against England and New Zealand in London last week.

Having already qualified for the final, Marinkovich was able to test the depth of her entire squad, fielding a completely different starting line-up after a week's break.

And after seeing an impressive workout, she was then able to watch England pip New Zealand 58-57 in a thriller to ensure Sunday's (Monday AEDT) final of the four-team tournament would be a rematch of the 2022 World Cup final showdown in South Africa.

Australia also beat England, but only by two goals, in their group match last weekend, as Marinkovich warned: "It's going to be another test for us - international netball's so close these days, it's gonna be a beauty of a match."

Sarah Klau wins 50th cap
Sarah Klau has won her 50th cap for Australia in the Diamonds' win over Uganda. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

She was left delighted by her team's flexibility as she made wholesale changes, bringing 1.93m tall goal shooter Donnell Wallam into the starting lineup to take on the lion's share of the scoring.

Though Wallam was given a break in the third quarter as the Diamonds made a host of changes and looked sharper for the new-look, the shooter who used to play for the local Leeds Rhinos, was brought on again for the final assault and ended with an outstanding 31 goals 32 attempts.  

On a day when goal keeper Sarah Klau was winning her 50th cap, centre Jamie-Lee Price was superb, winning the player of the match honours.

"We were feeling really good," said Price. 

"We've had a week off, plenty of time to regenerate. Uganda are so good and really tested us, fast and patient but what's so good about us is that we've have so many different combinations, it's really exciting."

It was a real contest in the first half with the Australians leading only by one goal just two minutes before halftime.

But a late second-quarter surge saw them forge into a 29-25 lead at halftime and when the likes of Sophie Garbin, Paige Hadley and Kate Moloney were introduced after the break, Australia found their familiar slick-moving groove to extend that advantage to 48-36 going into the final quarter.

"I wanted to explore the depth of the options we have," said Marinkovich.

"We've got some different ways of playing the game - it's been a challenge but I'm really pleased with how we've gone about it.

"It wasn't a comfortable game, certainly watching from the sidelines. Uganda are unpredictable and it was hard to get ball. We started to find some court space and some runs, but it just took a little time, you've got to be patient."

The England-New Zealand match went down to the dying seconds when a key intercept by England's Funmi Fadoju ensured the hosts get a crack at revenge over Australia on Sunday.

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