Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Commonwealth Games: Silver Ferns continue unbeaten run

Liana Leota of the Silver Ferns. Photo / Getty Images
Liana Leota of the Silver Ferns. Photo / Getty Images

The Silver Ferns have continued their unbeaten run through Commonwealth Games pool play, recording a convincing 69-goal win over St Lucia despite fielding a make-shift shooting line-up.

With injuries decimating their shooting end, midcourter Liana Leota - the shortest player in the team at 1.68m - was forced to take the court at goal attack, partnering Jodi Brown in the shooting circle.

The unlikely pairing was brought about after Maria Tutaia (foot), Cathrine Latu (calf) and Ellen Halpenny (ankle) all picked up injuries in earlier matches. Halpenny was cleared to play a quarter of netball last night, coming on in the final quarter of the 88-19 win. But worrying neither Tutaia nor Latu - their first choice shooting combination - suited up for the match. Tutaia was sporting a moonboot and walking with the aid of a crutch.

Midcourter Shannon Francois then added to the team's injury toll approaching halftime of last night's match against St Lucia, when she was forced off the court with an Achilles injury.

The official line from Silver Ferns management is the injuries in the shooting end are not serious and the pair are being rested as a precaution. A call has yet to be made on whether Tutaia and Latu will be fit to take the court against Jamaica in their final pool play match tonight.

Both sides are guaranteed a place in the semifinals, with tonight's game determining seeding for the crossover matches. The winner will likely face England for a place in the final, while the loser will take on Australia.

The Jamaicans have been in ominous form early on, easily dispatching Malawi 81-50 yesterday. New Zealand only just managed to scrape past the African side by their goals in their opening pool match.

Despite all the disruptions leading up to last night's match, the Ferns produced their most confident and cohesive performance of the tournament. Leota was a revelation at goal attack, with the athletic star enjoying the extra room to move, producing some stunning drives into the circle. Her clever interplay with Brown was also a feature, and the diminutive Leota was surprisingly accurate on goal.

But against stronger opposition, Leota's small stature may prove to be more of a problem.

- NZ Herald

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