New Zealand 46
Another genuine rivalry has emerged in world netball in the past two weeks as the English Roses have proven a consistent thorn in the side of the Silver Ferns.
England yesterday ensured the Taini Jamison series will go to a decider in Hamilton after pulling off a 49-46 win over New Zealand with another gutsy display. Like last week's series opener in Porirua, the match was tightly contested throughout as England's ferocity on defence once again troubled the Ferns attack, putting the strain on their links through the court, as well as their shooting accuracy.
While honours are even in this series, the scoreboard for the international season now reads 2-1 in the favour of England after the Roses' tipped over the Ferns in their Quad Series match-up last month.
It has put Janine Southby's side under pressure to deliver an emphatic response in Wednesday night's decider. But so far this season, the Ferns have produced the goods whenever tough questions have been asked of them, and Southby is backing her players to make the necessary adjustments again.
"It's not a matter of having to get them up for it. I know they will be bitterly disappointed after this one. There are aspects of our game [yesterday] we are not happy with and we will go back and have a look at it," said Southby.
The area of focus for the Kiwi side will likely be on their attacking links after a far from cohesive display in Napier. The Ferns appeared rattled by the physical intensity of the English defensive effort, led by tenacious midcourter Serena Guthrie and star defender Geva Mentor, who kept star shooter Maria Tutaia to a meagre 50 per cent accuracy rate in her 31 minutes on court. The visitors also did an impressive job of slowing the Ferns through the court, ensuring their passage to goal was laboured.
"We knew they were going to bring that physicality and we've got to be up for that," said Southby.
"It was just a lack of confidence to let it go to each other. I think there were a couple of times where we could have let it go. We know they're all over us, but that's a fact of international netball, but you just have to keep going and keep attacking and have the courage to let it going."
Wednesday's decider will feature plenty of feeling from both sides. The English players were animated after yesterday's win, celebrating wildly on court, and will be desperate not to miss a chance to secure a first series win over New Zealand. But there will be Ferns - Tutaia chief among them - who will be disappointed with their performance yesterday and determined to make amends.