Match Wrap | Cadbury Netball Series Game Finals Day
Showing a heap of character, the Silver Ferns rebounded in style to post a pulsating 55-52 win over the NZ Men in the final of the Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North on Saturday.
Beaten by 13 goals in their first match-up two days ago, the Silver Ferns turned the tables to record their first-ever win over the NZ Men with a classy outing in a bruising but entertaining clash.
After being rested yesterday, shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit were back for the Silver Ferns, the pair getting the nod to start the final along with the impressive in-circle defensive pairing of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Jane Watson.
The NZ Men were at full strength with the imposing figure of Junior Levi shoring up the shooting end, the super-talented Kruze Tangira running the midcourt and the dynamic in-circle defensive duo of Jake Schuster and Joseph Tukaki conducting the back end of the court tactics.
Employing short, sharp, flat and fast tactics, the Silver Ferns were all business from the outset. Showing plenty of movement and patience on attack paid dividends, the Silver Ferns breaking the goal-for-goal opening tussle through their slickness on attack and robust defensive efforts.
The pressure produced a rash of errors from NZ Men, the Silver Ferns unflinching as they took a four-goal lead. That forced a change with Nick Grimmer replacing Cameron Powell at wing attack late in the quarter.
Persistent hustle from dogged wing defence Sam Winders mirrored by the tenacity of Fitzpatrick and Watson put more ball in the Silver Ferns hands. Majestic captain Ekenasio led the way with a perfect 10 from 10, helping the Silver Ferns head into the first break with a 16-10 lead.
The Silver Ferns retained the same seven on the resumption while the NZ Men made multiple changes. The intensity lifted several notches as the NZ Men threw everything into a physical and thrilling second stanza.
Maia Wilson took over from Selby-Rickit midway through, the NZ men making several raids as they made inroads into the deficit. The Silver Ferns refused to concede with Watson and Fitzpatrick providing solid resistance.
Late in the piece Claire Kersten took over from Winders while Whitney Souness replaced Gina Crampton, the Silver Ferns keeping the NZ Men at bay when taking a 25-22 lead into the main break.
Tight and tense, there was no let-up in a riveting third stanza when the spoils were shared after momentum swung back and forth.
With the Silver Ferns continuing to execute a patient but exciting brand of netball, the NZ Men had their hands full but showed time and again their ability to score quickly. After starting at wing attack, Cameron proved a solid ally for Levi under the hoop the pair drawing the men level late in the piece.
The Silver Ferns showed their stature by digging deep and refusing to take a backward step. Centre Shannon Saunders had a forceful outing, combining expertly with the creative Souness as the Silver Ferns showed plenty of enterprise on attack.
With Kelly Jury replacing Fitzpatrick, the defensive end remained effective while Wilson was an inspiring figure under the hoop, slotting goals from short and long range to post a 19 from 19 return while Levi was equally efficient with 23 from 24.
Once again, the Silver Ferns fended off the threat of a comeback from NZ Men to keep their noses in front when leading 42-39 at the last turn.
Goalkeeper Timothy Apisai grabbed a couple of timely intercepts to help steer the NZ men to five goals on the trot, levelling the scores with five minutes to go to set up a thrilling run to the line.
In the day's first game, the NZA produced a well-crafted 68-47 win over the NZU21s to seal third place at the Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North on Saturday.
After gaining the lead for the first time late in the first quarter, there was no looking back for NZA, whose constant pressure along with the shooting volume of Grace Nweke kept the NZU21s at arms-length. NZA prevailed by four goals when the teams met in the previous encounter two days ago.
Surging away at the end of each quarter left NZA well in control against the plucky NZU21s, who can be happy with their contribution during the series. The younger brigade has impressed with their talent and intent as they work their way towards next year’s Netball World Youth Cup.
Continuing with the theme of the series of rotating players and managing work-loads, NZA were bolstered by Nweke, Kimiora Poi and Karin Burger, who all played for the Silver Ferns the previous day. The trio made the NZA starting line-up at goal shoot, centre and goal defence, respectively.
On a similar note, Maddy Gordon got her first outing for the NZU21s, starting at wing attack, after turning out for NZA in the previous matches. The NZU21s started with the impressive young shooting duo of captain Tiana Metuarau and Saviour Tui as well as the well-performed defensive duo of Parris Mason and Taneisha Fifita.
In the face of a staunch through-court defensive effort from NZA, the NZU21s were up for the challenge, keeping their noses in front for most of the opening stanza. Respective goal shoots, Nweke and Tui were key figures in carrying the shooting loads for their teams while highlighting their accuracy.
NZA made a late rally in the closing stages to hit the lead for the first time before edging to a 17-15 lead after a high-scoring first quarter.
There were no changes for either side on the resumption, the towering figure of Nweke continuing her influence as NZA threatened to break the game open. The more experienced team capitalised on the ability of captain Erena Mikaere and Kate Heffernan to pick off turnover opportunities as they built into a position of ascendancy when stretching out to a six-goal lead.
Under constant defensive pressure, the NZU21s lost some of their shape on attack but continued to contest and challenge gamely, with centre Renee Savai’inaea having a strong showing.
Kate Burley replaced Burger with five minutes to go, NZA pushing out their advantage when leading 32-24 at the main break.
Burger returned for NZA in the third quarter while Aliyah Dunn was introduced at goal attack, and talented NZU21 midcourter Ainsleyana Puleiata got her opportunity at wing attack.
Swarming NZA defence continued to put the NZU21s off stride as they struggled to negate the constant attention while Nweke remained the mainstay under the hoop. Towering over her opponents, the super shooter was a key figure with plenty of ball arriving in her hands.
The NZU21s didn’t enjoy as many opportunities, Metuarau impressing with her shooting from long range alongside the impressive Tui, who was solid throughout in all aspects of her play.
Playing in an unfamiliar position, Dunn also had a useful outing in playing second fiddle to Nweke. Getting plenty of turnover opportunities, NZA delivered a strong finish to the stanza while building to a dominant 54-37 lead at the last turn.
OFFICIAL RESULTS AND STATS:
NZ Men: 52
Shooting Stats -
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 21/25 (84%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 7/14 (50%)
Maia Wilson 27/30 (90%)
Shooting Stats - NZ
Junior Levi 36/39 (92.3%)
Dan Jefferies 8/10 (80%)
Cameron Powell 8/10 (80%)
MVP: Maia Wilson
Shooting Stats -
Aliyah Dunn 14/16 (87.5%)
Jamie Hume 8/9 (88.9%)
Grace Nweke 46/53 (86.8%)
Stats - NZU21S:
Saviour Tui 33/38 (86.8%)
Tiana Metuarau 14/16 (87.5%)
MVP: Kate Heffernan