Netball: Understrength Ferns too strong for England

By Dana Johannsen

The new Silver Ferns attacking line-up of Cathrine Latu, pictured, Jodi Brown and Camilla Lees worked their way into the win over England. Photo / Getty
The new Silver Ferns attacking line-up of Cathrine Latu, pictured, Jodi Brown and Camilla Lees worked their way into the win over England. Photo / Getty

Silver Ferns 49 England 32
The Silver Ferns dominated England - the danger team in world netball - with a second string attack line-up this morning in their final test outing before the Commonwealth Games.

With England having a full-strength squad to select from for the first time in three years and coming off their domestic season, the Ferns were considered vulnerable in this morning's match in London. After all, it was this time last year that England recorded a historic 3-0 series whitewash over Australia, and they fancied their chances of adding New Zealand to their list of scalps.

But after a promising start in which they led 13-9 at the first break, the English fell away badly in the five minutes either side of halftime, as the new Ferns attacking line-up of Cathrine Latu, Jodi Brown and Camilla Lees worked their way into the match.

With three of their biggest names - Casey Kopua, Maria Tutaia and Irene van Dyk - not even taking the court today, the convincing 49-32 win will be a big confidence boost for the team coming off a poor 2013 season.

The win was also a fitting and memorable way for dynamic centre Laura Langman to mark her 100th test. Langman became the first player in world netball to notch up 100 consecutive tests, having never missed a game for the Ferns since her test debut at the age of 18.

Langman, who captained the side in the absence of star defender Casey Kopua, typically had a strong influence on the proceedings, controlling the pace of the attack end and was workhorse on defence in what was a defensive-led performance from both sides.

After changing hotels over the weekend to be closer to the stadium at London Olympic Park, a late venue change was enforced on the Silver Ferns after significant damage was inflicted to the floor following an event at the arena over the weekend. Officials deemed the court surface was not of sufficient quality to host an international netball event. That meant Langman's milestone was brought up in front of a much more modest crowd at Crystal Palace.

But it was no less special for Langman, who was honoured in a presentation after the match.

"It's very humbling to be acknowledged in this way," said Langman.

"I must admit I did get a bit emotional during the national anthem, but I was really pleased with the team for getting the job done on court. I don't think the scoreline really reflected how tough it was for us out there."

It was particularly tough for the Silver Ferns in the opening 15 minutes, with England's highly regarded defensive pairing of Geva Mentor and Eboni Beckford-Chambers making an immediate impact in the circle. The Ferns struggled to get their ball placement into Brown and Latu right early on, with the athletic pair picking up some good balls.

New Zealand worked hard on defence right through the court to try and win the ball back, and were successful in limiting the damage, but England still held a handy 13-9 lead at the first break.

Finding better rhythm on attack, the visitors slowly managed to peg the English lead back in the second spell, drawing level at 18-all with just under five minutes left before halftime, before a late break gave them a 23-20 lead heading into the second half.

Expected to bring on their more familiar frontline of Irene van Dyk, Maria Tutaia and Shannon Francois in the second half, Taumaunu opted to test her lesser-experienced line-up at that intensity for the full 60 minutes.

Instead it was England who rung in the changes, with Anna Mayes curiously making changes to her midcourt that had the better of the Ferns for much of the first half. Tactix import Jade Clarke was replaced by Stacey Francis at wing defence, while rookie Laura Malcolm was brought on on at wing attack in place of the dynamic Sasha Corbin.

Finding better speed through the midcourt, the Ferns immediately raced out to a 29-22 lead five minutes into the period, prompting a time-out from England and further changes to their line-up, which were again confusing. Mentor - one of the best defenders in world netball - was pulled off, with Beckford-Chambers moving back to goal keep and Ama Agbeze coming on at goal defence.

While England were chopping and changing their line-up, the more settled New Zealand side charged ahead, extending their lead out to 39-28 heading into the final turn.

A change to the shooting end in the fourt quarter saw the home side launched a mini comeback as the crafty pairing of Kadeen Corbin and Pamela Cookey combined for some slick passages of play to confuse the Kiwi defenders. But a well-timed injury break from the Ferns helped them regain control of the match as they ran out convincing 17-goal winners.

- NZ Herald

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