Northern Ireland bore the brunt of Australia’s determination to start their Netball World Cup defence in style as the Diamonds ran out 88-24 winners in Liverpool.
Despite a gutsy performance, the underdogs fell 24-7 behind at the end of the first quarter as Australia, still smarting from their Commonwealth Games final loss to England last year, piled on the pressure.
Northern Ireland improved in the second quarter, scoring eight times, but they could not prevent a 30-point gap opening up between the two sides at the halfway stage.
Diamonds star Gretel Tippett increased the misery for the Irish in the third quarter with the holders showing no intention of easing up in their opening Group A encounter.
They scored 21 more times in the eighth and final quarter to round off a victory which sends a timely message to their rivals for the crown, which they have held since 2003.
Heading into their next match against outsiders Sri Lanka on Saturday, Northern Ireland will hope for good news regarding their star player Caroline O’Hanlon, who was injured midway through the third quarter.
Northern Ireland coach Dan Ryan said: “Your heart is in your mouth when you see a player of her importance to our World Cup campaign get injured.
“She’s been assessed by the medical team and will continue to be assessed in the next couple of moments. I think everything should be okay, hopefully, but we just have to wait and see.”