NOELINE Taurua and the Silver Ferns flexed their muscles on the final day of the Cadbury Series to clinch victory against the New Zealand Men’s team in the grand final while the New Zealand A side also collected their second win of the series, defeating the Under 21s in a strong showing.
New Zealand A (68) defeated New Zealand Under 21s (47)
It was another tough battle between New Zealand A and New Zealand Under 21s on the final day of the Cadbury Series, with the A team coming away with a stronger win than their first outing against the 21s credit to some significant changes across the court. While the 21s once again got off to a solid start, there was no denying the lack of experience hurt the young side who could not compete with the full-court pressure of the As. Despite the 21-goal scoreline, the young guns showcased some great hunt for the ball and willingness to contest, with plenty of players taking it up to their more experienced opposition and forming some great plays throughout. It was an exceptional first half showing from Kate Heffernan who used her anticipation, long arms and clean footwork to come away with player of the match.
For the New Zealand As, it was an impressive effort from young gun Grace Nweke that proved crucial early, with the goal shooter standing strong with plenty of confidence after her stint with the Silver Ferns and putting up a whopping 46 goals at 87 per cent in 52 minutes on court. Both Aliyah Dunn and Jamie Hume assisted on the scoreboard, with the former showcasing her renewed gameplay out in goal attack and the latter using her smooth moving to rack up 16 goal assists, only behind Tayla Earle (19 assists) and Kimiora Poi (18). Defensively, Heffernan racked up four intercepts in the first half while Kate Burley and Georgia Tong both collected three gains. Karin Burger wreaked havoc during her 39 minutes on court, counting six deflections though none resulted in a gain.
For the Under 21s, Saviour Tui continued her excellent form with another 30-plus goal haul at 87 per cent, while Tiana Metuarau continued to lead from the front with her accuracy – sitting at 100 per cent until the final quarter – and finished with 14 goals at 88 per cent to go with her 13 goal assists. Maddy Gordon injected her zippy movement and speed into the centre third on her return to the 21s and Renee Savai’inaea continued to showcase her versatility rotating between centre and wing defence and using her defensive traits to assist around circle edge. Gordon finished with 16 goal assists while Savai’inaea racked up three gains (two intercepts). In the defensive circle, Taneisha Fifita and Parris Mason continued to perform well despite their experienced opposition, with Fifita racking up four deflections (no gains) while Mason collected three gains (two intercepts).
Silver Ferns (55) defeated New Zealand Men’s (52)
The Silver Ferns flipped the script against the Men’s side to claim a narrow three goal victory in the grand final (55-52). Going down to them in their previous encounter the Ferns came out with a renewed sense of intensity and strong connections down the court to not only nullify the Men’s side but so too capitalise on their own chances. The moving circle paid dividends for the Ferns while their patient approach allowed them to weave the ball down the court and work through the defensive pressure stemming from the Men. The first quarter well and truly set the Ferns up nailing seven goals straight to create a handy six goal buffer. However the Men fought back in the second term to reduce the margin and get back within striking distance. An even second half saw the Ferns and Men’s side go goal for goal, unable to be separated as the Ferns walked away with the win in a gruelling encounter.
After missing the last game Te Paea Selby-Rickit came out with a point to prove in goal shooter and did not disappoint in the opening quarter. She put in a wealth of work to break free along the baseline and utilise the backspace to lead the way for the Ferns nailing six goals albeit it at 50 per cent. Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio was once again in fine form and showed no signs of her Achilles niggle setting the court alight with her drive and high release on the shot to steer the ship. Ekenasio was a real barometer through the attacking third, constantly setting up plays and getting in the circle to sink them from everywhere finishing with 21 goals from 25 attempts to accompany her 19 goal assists. The introduction of Maia Wilson also worked wonders for the Ferns with the goal shooter plying her trade under the post and standing up to the physicality to lead the way with a team-high 27 goals at 90 per cent. Through the midcourt Shannon Saunders was a real general with her cut and drive along with her ability to deliver ball into the goalers racking up 12 goal assists while Sam Winders showcased her desperation and tenacity to niggle away and force errors. There were options aplenty in defence for the Ferns with Jane Watson putting in a full 60 minute performance to walk away with three gains, two of which were intercepts while Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kelly Jury also impressed with a combined four gains.
Once again, Junior Levi was the go-to man under the post, commanding the ball with his sheer presence and long reach. He worked in overdrive to get on the move and present under the post while also highlighting his rebounding ability. Levi finished with 36 goals from 39 attempts and also managed a couple of assists. Daniel Jefferies and Cameron Powell both found the post sitting at eight goals from 10 attempts apiece as they endeavoured to find the most damaging combo inside the circle. Through the midcourt every ball was contested as Powell continued to star with his speed and ball delivery while Kruze Tangira showcased his impressive spatial awareness and overall netball smarts to deliver the ball on a silver platter into the likes of Levi and Powell. Deepak Patu was on fire throughout the game with his give and go, one-two punch around circle edge and turn of speed to lose the defender and hit the top of the circle time and time again to rack up 13 goal assists. Defensively Jake Schuster continued his merry way down back picking up four gains and covered the court with great ease to make the Ferns work for every pass while his partnership with Timothy Apisai was also on full show as he collected three gains.