Phoenix Karaka in action Photo / Getty Images
The Silver Ferns will meet Australia in the final of the Netball Quad Series after posting a hard-fought 55-45 win over the England Roses in Cape Town.
With the prize for both teams being a place in the final, the Silver Ferns weathered a tenacious third-quarter comeback from the Roses with a blockbuster response in the run to the finish line. After England nosed to a one-goal lead early in the final stanza, the women in black swung into action.
The irresistible contribution of shooter Grace Nweke, non-stop defensive work of Phoenix Karaka (Tainui) and the all-round play of captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio (Ngāpuhi), the Silver Ferns were able to stop the Roses in their tracks with a withering final burst to earn a character-building win.
"Firstly, I’m really rapt that we’re in the final, we haven’t been here for a couple of years and it shows the promise in this current group,’’ Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whatua) said.
"Defensively we turned over a lot of ball but unfortunately, we weren’t always able to take it through to the other end. That’s the tightest we’ve been defensively and that’s really pleasing.
"To come back in that last five minutes and win by 10 is a real credit to the workload they carried and the ethic shown by the players out there.’’
Taurua made minimal changes for the Silver Ferns third match of the series following a win against South Africa and loss to Australia, Te Paea Selby-Rickit getting her first taste of action at the tournament with a start at goal attack and the returning Jane Watson getting the nod at goalkeeper.
After a draw and a loss, the England Roses were bookended by the talented Eleanor Cardwell at the shooting end and experienced defender Geva Mentor at the other in their starting seven.
The Silver Ferns were on the receiving end of a torrid opening onslaught by England’s defensive end with Mentor at her menacing best. Not to be outdone, Watson was equally strong at the other end in negating England’s aerial flow as both teams struggled to execute fluently on attack.
Playing maximum minutes in the opening two games, Nweke was made to work hard for any reward against England. The New Zealand attackers gradually found their prolific shooter with more regularity as the Silver Ferns finished with a flourish to end the first quarter with a 15-12 lead.
Showing more impetus on attack, the Silver Ferns struck early on the resumption to secure the first four goals while building a handy buffer to lead by seven. Goal defence Karaka was in the thick of the action with her disruptive presence and aerial skills while Karin Burger (MVP) at wing defence was a strong ally.
Ekenasio was introduced midway through for Selby-Rickit while veteran midcourter Jade Clarke came on for England and with it earning her 199th test cap.
There was no lessening of intent from both defensive units, the Silver Ferns proving more accurate in their finishing as Nweke continued to showcase her skillset and reliability while the Roses remained guilty of too many turnovers.
The Silver Ferns repeated their margin of the first quarter to double their advantage when leading 27-21 at the main break.
Far from done, England bounced back to produce a rousing third quarter to leave the game delicately poised. With goal attack Helen Housby providing the movement, England’s ball placement improved significantly with more opportunities arriving in reliable shooter Cardwell’s hands.
In an increasingly physical outing, England's defence did a fine job of slowing the Silver Ferns attacking momentum, the Roses making decisive inroads into the deficit. Edging to within one goal, England remained ever-threatening but it was the Silver Ferns who clung on to a 37-35 lead at the last turn and with it the promise of an exciting finish.
The Silver Ferns will play Australia in the final at 5am (NZ time) tomorrow.
Shooting stats - Silver Ferns:
- Grace Nweke 44/48 (91.7%)
- Ameliaranne Ekenasio 7/9 (77.8%)
- Te Paea Selby-Rickit 4/4 (100%)
Shooting stats - England
- Eleanor Cardwell 35/38 (92.1%)
- Helen Housby 10/13 (76.9%)