The Silver Ferns put the polish on their preparations for tomorrow’s Cadbury Netball Series decider with a relentless 88-30 win over the Fiji Pearls in Auckland on Friday.
After Thursday’s memorable outing, the Silver Ferns get another crack against the NZ Men’s Invitational team after falling by four in the historic opening clash while Fiji and the All Stars will play off for third.
Shouldering a big workload in the previous two days, captain Laura Langman and defender Jane Watson had time on the sidelines today while shooter Bailey Mes was ruled out of the match after receiving a knock in yesterday’s game.
It was another opportunity for the Silver Ferns to replicate their draw at next month’s Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool where they will play back-to-back games over five days. The intent for coach Noeline Taurua against the Pearls being to maintain the intensity levels reached against the men and retaining a strong mental attitude throughout.
Down to three shooters meant Maria Folau, Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit were rotated at regular intervals during the match.
The young and new-look Pearls, also hampered by injury to several players, were under early pressure after the Silver Ferns, playing at a quick clip, got away to a flyer when pushing out to a 9-1 lead.
With plenty of ball in their hands, Folau and Ekenasio shared the shooting load expertly, the visitors struggling to get enough possession to their own shooters despite the impressive efforts of goalkeeper Episake Kahatoka, who has delivered strong form throughout the series, and wing defence Alisi Galo.
It was the Silver Ferns who powered away to a 20-8 lead at the first break.
The Pearls made some amends on the resumption with a positive response, the introduction of wing attack Kaitlyn Fisher helping deliver a greater flow of ball to effective shooter Matila Vocea, all done with a touch of Pacific flair.
The Silver Ferns defensive unit of Shannon Saunders (centre), Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, Phoenix Karaka (goal defence) and Casey Kopua (goalkeeper) had their moments of success in shutting down Fiji’s attacking moment as they headed to the halftime break with a 43-19 lead.
After a spell on the bench, Ekenasio returned for the third stanza with Selby-Rickit moving back to goal shoot, Karin Burger and Jane Watson coming off the bench to wing defence and goalkeeper respectively, and Sokolich-Beatson slipping into goal defence.
Regaining the ascendancy, it was a productive quarter for the home side with Ekenasio sparkling on attack while defensively Sokolich-Beatson, Burger and Watson picked off a string of intercepts to restrict the Pearls to just seven goals. It was the Silver Ferns who bounded into the last break with a decisive 64-26 lead.
In the early game, the NZ Men completed a clean sweep of group play after posting a comfortable 59-44 win over the All Stars.
The men were out of the blocks quickly, slick and accurate through-court transition orchestrated by well-performed centre Kruze Tangira catching the All Stars on the hop. They were also a commanding presence defensively where Kevin Bell, Daniel Rich and Matt Wetere proved effective spoilers.
On the back of too many turnovers from the All Stars, the NZ Men pushed out to a healthy 18-10 lead at the first break.
With 1.96m goalkeeper Erena Mikaere introduced on the resumption and the adoption of a short/sharp passing game, the All Stars held their own in a drawn second quarter.
Showing her vision and speed of foot, wing attack Whitney Souness was instrumental in getting some quality ball into Aliyah Dunn’s hands, the tall shooter showing plenty of poise under the hoop as the All Stars held the NZ Men to 30-22 at the main break.
Dominating the third stanza, the NZ Men sealed their spot in tomorrow’s series decider with clinical efficiency after taking a decisive 45-30 lead at the last break. They were also able to show their versatility, Wetere seamlessly slipping from the defensive end to goal attack without missing a beat.