Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Ferns scrape draw as Aussies laid low

Fast5 shakes up status quo as minnows get the better of netball superpowers

Jhanueke Fowler of Jamaica shoots over Anna Harrison. Photo / Getty Images
Jhanueke Fowler of Jamaica shoots over Anna Harrison. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand's first foray into Fast5 netted mixed results, with the Fast Ferns drawing their opening match against Jamaica, but wowing the crowd with their array of tricks.

The 38-all draw wasn't the only shock result from the opening night's action, with Australia slumping to a 33-15 loss to Malawi in their second match-up of the evening.

World champions in the long form of the game, Australia struggled in their first two Fast5 outings, going down to England 29-27 in their opener, before they were upstaged by a dazzling long-range shooting display from the Malawi Queens.

While the other top nations are using the tournament as an opportunity to expose their youngsters to the international environment, Waimarama Taumaunu selected a full-strength line-up for the Auckland tournament.

Taumaunu's advice to her side heading into the weekend was to enjoy themselves and be creative - an instruction the Ferns keenly grasped in last night's opener.

For periods of the 24-minute match the Ferns were like the Harlem Globetrotters of netball, with their full range of trickery on display.

There were long bombs delivered into the circle with pinpoint precision, some exceptional long-range shooting, and the crowd favourite "Harrison Hoist".

The Ferns could not quite find the right balance between the high-risk play and opting for safety.

The Kiwi side held a healthy 16-10 lead at halftime, courtesy of some impressive shooting from Bailey Mes, but Jamaica managed to get their noses just in front by three-quarter time after outscoring the Ferns 17-10 in their powerplay quarter. With New Zealand saving their powerplay quarter - during which their score is doubled - until the final spell, the Ferns still looked in control of proceedings.

But New Zealand failed to make the most of their advantage, with Jamaica learning their lesson from their first-up loss to South Africa, and defending resolutely to starve New Zealand of possession during their powerplay quarter.

As frustration set in for New Zealand, so too did the errors, which the Sunshine Girls capitalised on with a late flurry of long-range goals.

Diminutive shooter Anna-Kaye Griffiths levelled the score at 38-all with 28 seconds left on the clock, and while the Ferns had the following possession, they could not break the deadlock.

New Zealand shooter Maria Tutaia said while the result may seem like a bit of a shock, it is the nature of the newly revamped format.

"We know that in this competition it's anyone's ball game, especially with the three-pointers and the two-pointers, no lead is really safe," said Tutaia.

The evening got off to a very pedestrian start, with Jamaica and South Africa looking tentative in their first match under the newly revamped rules.

South Africa's Chrisna Bootha will go down in the books as the first player to land a three-pointer, with the 1.88m shooter scoring the first "supershot" of the evening in the Proteas' surprise 34-25 first-up win over Jamaica. But Bootha didn't realise there was an unofficial competition running as to who would score the first "supershot".

"It never went through my mind - I just wanted to score goals," said Bootha.

South Africa's long-range shooting proved the difference in their opening match, as Elize Koetze's side made the most of their powerplay, scoring two supershots in the period, netting six points for each shot.

Top results

South Africa 34 Jamaica 25

England 29 Australia 27

New Zealand 38 Jamaica 38

Malawi 33 Australia 15

- NZ Herald

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