The Silver Ferns have snapped their losing streak to the New Zealand men’s side to capture the Cadbury Series netball title.
They edged the men in a thrilling last quarter to win 55-52 in the final in Palmerston North on Saturday night.
The men had held the advantage over the Ferns, winning both Cadbury Series matches against the Ferns, last year, including the final. In Thursday’s clash between the sides, the men were comfortable 60-47 victors.
This was just the boost the Ferns were searching for ahead of next week’s three-test series against England in Hamilton, beginning on Wednesday.
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In a frantic last quarter, the Ferns jumped out to a 48-41 advantage, but the men are capable of scoring quickly with just a couple of passes.
They were level with the Ferns at 49-all with five minutes to play, but the world champions never cracked and closed out a tense contest.
Maia Wilson was outstanding for the Ferns after taking the court in the second quarter, converting 27 of 30 attempts. The Ferns were impressive defensively, limiting the men to 59 attempts for the game – 10 fewer than them.
Next week’s series against England has firmly been in Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua’s thinking over the past four days.
Extra Time with Stephen Hewson talks with Kiri Wills from the Silver Ferns coaching staff on the challenges ahead and we’re also joined by Suzanne McFadden from LockerRoom and RNZ’s Bridget Tunnicliffe.
Taurua rotated her 15 player squad around during the Cadbury Series, managing minutes with four games over four days. Three Ferns players were also made available to the New Zealand A side on each match-day, allowing Taurua to test different combinations and get a better look at Ferns’ contenders.
The 15-player squad will be cut down to 12 on Sunday to face Commonwealth Games gold medallists England, who are without their Australian Super Netball players.
The Silver Ferns started poorly against the men in their first game on Thursday, but began brightly in the final.
They finished the first quarter strongly with an 8-1 run, allowing the Ferns to open up a 16-10 advantage – a sharp contrast to Thursday, where they trailed by seven goals (17-10).
Taurua went for a moving shooting circle of captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit to begin the game with incumbent goal shoot Wilson on the bench.
On attack, the Ferns looked more cohesive, compared to Thursday’s game, where it took plenty of passes to hit the circle edge. Midcourters Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders were able to find their targets safely amid the height and long arms of the men’s defenders.
It was a full team defensive effort from the Ferns, who forced the men into some uncharacteristic early turnovers and limited the supply of ball into 2.14m goal shoot Junior Levi. Levi was only able to put up six goals in the first 15 minutes, converting every attempt. He still finished with 36 from 39 for the game, including 13 in the final term.
The men’s side are full of classy performers, and they quickly hit back, opening the second quarter with a 7-3 burst to chip into the Ferns’ lead.
Men’s defenders Jake Schuster and Timmy Apisai attempted several defensive hoists to try and shut down Wilson, who entered the action in the second quarter.
Wing defence Sam Winders, fighting for a midcourt berth and Ferns recall against England, was a menace defensively in the first half. She had to leave the court late in the second quarter with an ankle niggle, but returned in the fourth quarter.
The Ferns went into halftime with a 25-22 lead with the men hurt by 19 first half turnovers.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, the men had levelled the score, but the Silver Ferns kept their composure and refused to crumble.
Led by Wilson, who was sinking everything, the Ferns were able to keep ahead on the scoreboard and take a three goal buffer (42-39) into the final term.
The men delivered a powerful finish to the game and threatened to take the title, but the Ferns kept their nerve and closed out a memorable win.
Meanwhile, in the third and fourth playoff, New Zealand A overcame the New Zealand under-21s 68-47 with Silver Ferns squad member Grace Nweke landing 46 goals from 53 attempts for the As.
AT A GLANCE:
Silver Ferns 55 (Te Paea Selby-Rickit: 7/14, Ameliaranne Ekenasio: 21/25, Maia Wilson: 27/30) New Zealand men 52 (Junior Levi: 36/39, Daniel Jefferies: 8/10, Cameron Powell: 8/10) Quarter scores: 1Q: 16-10, HT: 25-22, 3Q: 42-39.