Netball: Ferns pretty content with progress

By Dana Johannsen

Leana de Bruin of New Zealand defends Catherine Cox of Australia. Photo / Getty Images
Leana de Bruin of New Zealand defends Catherine Cox of Australia. Photo / Getty Images

The Silver Ferns can head into their summer break pretty content with their progress this season, after last night capping off a wobbly international season on a high, recording a strong win over Australia.

Hammered by 20-goals less than two weeks ago, the New Zealand side rediscovered the form that saw them claim the Constellation Cup back in September, pulling off a remarkable turnaround to finish the season with upper-hand over the Diamonds.

In the five meetings between the two fierce rivals this year, the Ferns have won three, with last night's five-goal win in Hamilton their most complete performance of the year.

A shaky first quarter, in which the New Zealand attack appeared rattled by the physical Australian defence, was the Ferns only blip in an otherwise solid all-round performance.

Regardless of the outcome last night, Australia had the Quad Series wrapped up, taking a sizeable advantage in goal differential heading into the finale courtesy of their consistently strong performances in the lead-up.

But it was still a must-win game for the Silver Ferns as they looked to take some all important confidence and momentum into next year after a couple of disappointing outings during the four nations tournament.

The big difference between the Ferns record loss against the Diamonds in the Australian leg of the series and last night's win was their defensive intensity. The New Zealand side matched their goal tally in Sydney of 48, but restricted Australia to just 43 - 25 less than the record score than amassed last weekend.

Led by player of the match performance from Leana de Bruin, who was playing in her 100th test match, and a resurgent Casey Williams, the Ferns circle defence did an impressive job of shutting down the Australian shooting pairing of Catherine Cox and Susan Pratley, who were unstoppable the Sydney test.

New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu was extremely satisfied with the way her defenders responded after the humbling loss, forcing Australia to make multiple changes to their shooting end during the match.

"I thought our circle defence was outstanding tonight, I was delighted with the way they approached their task and how they worked together," said Taumaunu.

"We're not a tight-marking team, so we aim to fill the space they want to play in and I think we did that really well tonight."

Williams, who struggled for form early on in the Quad Series as she battled her way back from injury, clearly enjoyed terrorising the Australian attack. The Silver Ferns captain could not stop smiling once she sensed her side were getting on top of the visitors.

"One of the things I about in my individual assessment before I came out here was that I wanted to have fun. I wanted to get back out there and enjoy it," said Williams.

"I know it sounds mean, but when you can see the other team get frustrated that's when it lifts you and gives you more energy."

The Kiwi side were also much more patient and composed on attack, with the return of Camilla Lees to the midcourt helping to settle the New Zealand attack.

Having seen her side's average turnover count escalate during the Quad Series, Taumaunu was pleased the Ferns showed huge improvement in this area last night.
"Our error rate came down to 20 for the first time in the Quad Series, so that was very satisfying," said Taumaunu.

In last night's curtain-raiser, England picked up their second win of the series, easing past South Africa 56-30. Feeling the effects of a long series, the Proteas struggled to get into the match after pushing England in their first meeting in the Australian leg of the tour.

The Silver Ferns now have a couple of days off to refresh before reassembling in Auckland next week for the Fast5 World Series. Taumaunu has picked her strongest line-up available for the three-day tournament at Vector Arena, which will feature new rules for the shortened form of the game.

- NZ Herald

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