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Leota shines in NZ Netballers big win over St Lucia

Leota shines in NZ Netballers big win over St Lucia

Media Advisory
29 July 2014

Playing out of position, the shortest member of the New Zealand side Liana Leota was the star turn as the NZ Netball team swept past Saint Lucia 88-19 at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Unbeaten through their first four matches, New Zealand turned in a slick and powerful performance ahead of their last pool match against Jamaica tomorrow night (NZ time) which will determine the order of the semi-finals to be played on Saturday.

Erring on the side of caution in giving shooters Maria Tutaia and Cathrine Latu extra recovery time for respective foot and calf strain injuries, coach Wai Taumaunu sprung a surprise when thrusting diminutive midcourter Leota into the starting goal attack role.

One of the shortest players running around on the international scene, the 1.68m midcourt pivot is no stranger to playing the position at club level but it was certainly a first on the big stage for Leota.

The midcourt dynamo paired with the well-performed Jodi Brown in the New Zealand shooting circle, Shannon Francois and Laura Langman formed the midcourt attacking combination while Joline Henry, Katrina Grant and Leana de Bruin made up the defence line.

A few months after giving birth to her third child, Leota showed she was no slouch in her new-found role, slotting the first goal of the match as the New Zealanders got off to a sizzling start.

Looking far from out of place, Leota’s timing, flair and vision added to a seamless and accurate New Zealand attacking unit. Strong with their transition through court, the women in black scored the opening 10 goals before St Lucia opened their account.

It was a tough start for the 18th ranked St Lucia, playing in their first Commonwealth Games, who battled throughout to successfully thread the ball through court.

The taller New Zealanders picked off plenty of aerial ball through Grant and de Bruin as the defending champions skipped out to a 20-5 lead at the first break.

The second stanza panned out in similar fashion, New Zealand scoring the first 11 goals while St Lucia, coached by former Jamaican great Connie Francis, laboured for six minutes before converting their first.

Taumaunu shuffled the deck slightly midway through the stanza with Francois going to the bench, Henry moving to centre, Langman to wing attack and Anna Harrison assuming the wing defence bib.

It made little difference to the dominance of New Zealand, who continued to build a commanding buffer. Captain and goal attack Shem Maxwell was the shining light for St Lucia with her ability to set up play but she could do little to stem the tide as New Zealand went to the main break with a healthy 44-11 lead.

New Zealand produced another strong effort during the third stanza with captain Casey Kopua replacing de Bruin for the second half. There was no let-up from the New Zealanders with Brown and Leota continuing their excellent form under the hoop.

Defensively, New Zealand were rock solid in consistently denying St Lucia attacking opportunities and taking an unassailable 65-16 lead into the last break.

Recovered from a rolled ankle in her debut match against Scotland, Ellen Halpenny made an appearance in the fourth quarter as the New Zealanders continued to grow in confidence and importantly, retained their consistency to finish strongly.

Leota returned to the more familiar wing attack role after delivering an impressive 19 goals from 26 attempts in a memorable outing.

Please click here for the 2014 Media Guide for the New Zealand Netball Team at the Commonwealth Games.

-Ends-

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