Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Silver Ferns cruise past Jamaica

Silver Ferns 72 Jamaica 34
Silver Ferns player Bailey Mes during the 1st test against the Jamaican Sunshine Girls. Photo / Photosport
Silver Ferns player Bailey Mes during the 1st test against the Jamaican Sunshine Girls. Photo / Photosport

The Silver Ferns have opened up a big gap on world netball's chasing pack.

Following on from their 26-goal demolition of England in last month's Quad Series, the Ferns posted a hefty win over world No4 Jamaica in tonight's opening clash of the Taini Jamison series in Nelson.

The New Zealand side, who like their competitors are in a rebuilding mode as a new four-year cycle begins, were a class above the Sunshine Girls. New Zealand coach Janine Southby managed to get 11 players on court in the 38-goal rout, including rookie shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who made her first international start, and new cap Storm Purvis.

Purvis, a surprise selection in the Ferns side, was introduced at goal defence in the final five minutes of the match.

Jamaica's failure to compete with the Ferns for any meaningful stretches was disappointing, particularly after England's Quad Series capitulation.

With the pressure coming from underneath minimal, if the Ferns are going to close the gap on world number ones Australia, they will need to rely on internal competition to do so.

Missing their two biggest names - and two of the biggest shooters in world netball - in Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, the Sunshine Girls lacked the scoring power they would usually possess. Without their tall targets at the back, the Jamaicans had to find another, less direct, avenue into the circle - leading to more opportunities for the Silver Ferns defenders to snaffle the ball. It took a while for the New Zealand defence to make their full impact felt in the match however, with the aerial style and long, loopy passes of the Jamaicans forcing the defenders to make a difficult timing adjustment.

The Ferns still came up will a healthy number of turnovers, but these were generated by forcing the visitors into errors through a full court defensive effort rather than individual brilliance.

Holding a healthy 35-15 at halftime, Southby opted for widespread changes for the second half, making tweaks to each area of the court.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who only joined the Ferns in camp on the eve of the test after a family bereavement kept her sidelined for most of the build-up, returned to the shooting circle, producing another inspired effort following a series of breakthrough performances in the Quad Series.

Phoenix Karaka, who lost her starting spot to Jane Watson, also impressed in her second half appearance, upping the defensive intensity and collecting a couple of impressive aerial intercepts.

But the widespread changes took its toll over the latter stages of the match, with the Ferns connections on attack becoming laboured in the dying minutes and the Sunshine Girls finished with their best quarter.

The two sides will meet again in Palmerston North on Wednesday night, before the series wraps up in Rotorua next weekend.

- NZ Herald

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