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New Zealand into Gold Medal Match

New Zealand into Gold Medal Match

The New Zealand Netball team have secured a place in the goal medal final after beating England 35-34 in the first semi-final at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Saturday.

The defensive qualities of both teams were to the fore as each struggled to convert their goals, typified by the 6-5 scoreline which favoured New Zealand in the final quarter.

England led throughout the second half, except for a crucial last three seconds. As they had done throughout the match, the women in black fell behind early in the quarter but showed their experience of the big game situation with their never-say-die attitude.

The defending champions levelled the scores with three minutes to go, both teams squandering opportunities in a frantic run to the line, the scores staying level and the prospect of extra time looming, until the final three seconds.

Maria Tutaia nailed the opportunity, in the process breaking England hearts for a second time following a similar one-goal loss to Australia in pool play.

New Zealand ran with the same line-up that secured the all-important previous win against Jamaica, rookie international Ellen Halpenny again pairing with Jodi Brown in the shooting circle as a tight and tense opening quarter unfolded.

Defence dominated the opening exchanges as both teams lined up with impeccable defensive credentials. Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin for New Zealand were well matched at the other end by Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Geva Mentor as play swung back and forth after being stalled by the quartet at the respective circles.

Midcourters Laura Langman and Joline Henry added to New Zealand’s strong defensive effort, featuring with their drive through court and handy turnovers.

With both teams playing at pace, there was no let-up from either, England suffering from a heavy penalty count.
But in a fair indication of how the first stanza played out and with nothing separating the combatants, a 10-all scoreline at the first break was a good reflection.

Tutaia was brought on in the second quarter at goal attack for the New Zealanders, the long range shooting specialist having her first outing in six days after suffering a foot injury against Northern Ireland.

Pairing with Brown, the new combination took time to settle as momentum shifted towards England with shooter Jo Harten stepping up to slot a run of crunch goals. With New Zealand struggling to breach the tight England wall of Mentor, Beckford-Chambers and Jade Clarke, England jumped out to a five-goal lead.

Rangy defender Katrina Grant made an appearance at goal defence for New Zealand with captain Kopua going back to goalkeeper to help halt Harten’s influence as the Kiwis made a late surge.

With Tutaia getting her eye in, the New Zealanders lifted to another level, forcing England into error and capitalising as they twice pegged back five-goal deficits to take the lead for the first time in the quarter with a minute remaining and a 20-19 edge into the main break.

Shuffling their midcourt for the second half paid dividends for England, who again held the initiative, New Zealand scoring just the one-goal in the opening five minutes. But a similar story to the previous quarter unfolded with the experienced Kopua and Langman leading the revival.

Kopua picked off valuable intercept and rebound ball while Langman was the ever-reliable link through the midcourt as the New Zealanders chipped into the four-goal deficit to leave the scores entrenched at 29-all heading into the last break and the promise of an exciting finish where New Zealand scored in the final seconds to take the victory.


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