Netball: Stars bail out shaky Ferns

By Dana Johannsen

Maria Tutaia secures a pass during the Quad Series match between the New Zealand and England. Photo / Getty Images
Maria Tutaia secures a pass during the Quad Series match between the New Zealand and England. Photo / Getty Images

Silver Ferns 57 England 46
The Silver Ferns battled to a tough win over England in last night's Quad Series game, but failed in their goal of developing a second-string line-up as competitive as the starting seven.

Trialling a new shooting combination of Cathrine Latu and Jodi Brown in the first half, the Ferns struggled to find their rhythm on attack, and a confident English side charged to a 26-24 lead at halftime.

So it was again up to star shooters Irene van Dyk and Maria Tutaia to bail the New Zealand side out.

The introduction of the pair sparked a 33-20 second half revival - exactly the kind of dependence coach Waimarama Taumaunu is aiming to break in this series.

Conscious of the need to keep bodies fresh over the punishing six-test series, she always planned to give a few combinations a run last night, but she had hoped for a more consistent two halves.

"I thought the first half was a bit creaky, I was much happier with the second half," said Taumaunu.

"I would have liked to be up at halftime when that change happened, but we have to acknowledge England played very well."

Ferns captain Casey Williams was handed her first international start in more than 15 months, playing a full game for the first time since last year's world championship final.

After a disappointing showing against England in Newcastle last week, the star defender was eager to make amends in Wellington, and did so with a player of the match performance.

"My timing is getting there slowly," she said after the game. "It's something we have been working on for a while but it's got a way to go."

Perhaps suffering a hangover from their 20-goal loss against Australia, the Ferns started poorly last night, with frequent breakdowns on attack.

They were generating enough turnover ball on defence, but failed to capitalise.

Latu, starting at goal shoot on her 26th birthday, struggled to get her hands on the ball, while Brown was perhaps a little rusty having sat out the Australian leg of the series.

English shooters Pamela Cookey and Jo Harten had no such trouble with their links, combining for some clever interplay.

Trailing 13-12 at the first break, the Ferns continued to battle in the second quarter, producing some very ordinary patches of play, enabling England to extend their lead to four goals, before a late New Zealand rally cut it back to two at the main break.

The cavalry arrived in the second half, with Taumaunu bringing on what was close to her top line-up. Van Dyk and Tutaia came on in the shooting end, while Kayla Cullen was introduced at wing defence and Leana de Bruin at goal keep.

The new line-up quickly seized control of the match, taking the lead four minutes in to the third quarter and never relinquishing it from there.

In last night's earlier game, Australia produced a mixed bag in their 68-36 win over South Africa.

Trailing by 15 goals at halftime, the Proteas held their own for much of the third quarter but faded badly over the final period.

- NZ Herald

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