Commonwealth Games: Silver Ferns through to final

By David Leggat in Glasgow

Netball team keep hat-trick hopes alive with thrilling, last-gasp win against England.

Casey Kopua (left) and Joline Henry celebrate their last-gasp win. Photo / Greg Bowker
Casey Kopua (left) and Joline Henry celebrate their last-gasp win. Photo / Greg Bowker

It's small consolation to England that Maria Tutaia reckons the gap between the transtasman netball giants and England is closing fast.

It was the Northern Mystics attacker who buried England's hopes of reaching their first Commonwealth Games gold medal match at the SECC arena today, shooting the winning goal with time up on the clock.

The 35-34 win set up what is expected to be another in the titanic New Zealand-Australia contests tomorrow.

The low scoreline was testimony to the efficiency of two formidable defensive units. It was England's second one-goal defeat in the tournament, after dropping a game against Australia in pool play that they had led until the last few seconds, going down 49-48.

''I think its' great," Tutaia said of the improving quality of England's play.

''If anything it gives us more competition and makes us want to work a lot harder and be better at what we do."

Asked before Australia eased past Jamaica in the second semifinal, 57-42 - although it was a tight 24-23 at halftime - who she'd rather face in the final, Tutaia initially gave the old either/or response, before adding that Australia would be a narrow preference.

''It would mean we've beaten everyone in this competition. But beggars can't be choosers."

It might have been a slight slip of the tongue, but that first sentence sounded slightly premature.

She and her Silver Ferns team mates will get that chance tomorrow as they bid for a third straight Games title.

Tutaia, who played the last three quarters against England in her first action since injuring a foot in the third group game against Northern Ireland, was optimistic she would pull up okay and be ready for the final.

Adrenalin had kicked in during the match but admitted the foot was ''a bit achy".

Coach Wai Taumaunu said of Tutaia's 16-from-25 shooting display that ''I don't imagin Maria would describe it as a vintage performance on her part. She looked like she hadn't played for a while. We need to get the flow back".

Taumaunu said she was ''optimistic" the other injured first choice shooter Cathrine Latu would be able to take part in the final.

Latu has a calf injury and the problem with that is she has not set foot on a court for several games. The argument would be whether a clutch final against the world No 1 is the right time to get the Northern Mystics shooter back on court.

Australia's shooters, Natalie Medhurst and Caitlin Bassett, shot at 89 ad 80 percent success rate against Jamaica.

They are likely to start slight favourites. However this Silver Ferns side have played with some courage this week and battled through difficult situations.

You would be careful before placing your money on a winner.

- NZ Herald

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