Australia has won 11 world titles, including the last three. New Zealand seeks its fifth world crown, and first since 2003. England had high hopes of breaking up their finals party after winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year in Australia.
But England, which hasn't beaten New Zealand at the worlds since 1975, started poorly, encapsulated by off-form shooter Jo Harten. Meanwhile, New Zealand started 5-0, four of the goals by Maria Folau, who was unaffected by the booing of her name during the team introductions. Folau has defended her husband Israel's controversial religious beliefs.
New Zealand led by three after the first quarter, England led 24-21 at the half, and New Zealand was back up 36-33 after three quarters. England came within two at times in a frantic final quarter, but could not overcome the relentless accuracy of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who converted all but one of her 26 shots on goal.
In the first semifinal, Australia survived a scare to edge South Africa 55-53. Four players including captain Caitlin Bassett were rested by Australia after their single-goal win over New Zealand in group play on Thursday, and they almost paid a heavy price.
Led by top scorer Lenize Potgieter, South Africa hit back from an eight-goal halftime deficit and twice brought the game back within a single point. Australia goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites finished with a perfect 30-for-30 record.
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