Netball: Silver Ferns stun New Zealand Men to win title

Silver Ferns 55
New Zealand Men 52

The Silver Ferns have secured their first win over the New Zealand Men – and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Not only has the 55-52 victory secured them the 2020 Cadbury Netball Series title, it gives them plenty of confidence four days out from their first international outing in nine months.

The world champions play England in a three-match Taini Jamison Trophy series starting Wednesday, with this week’s series having been the perfect opportunity for head coach Dame Noeline Taurua to solidify selections.

The Roses exited quarantine today and will have been watching this week’s series almost as closely as Taurua.

And what they would’ve seen tonight should trigger some nerves.

In stark contrast to the last time the Ferns met the men, it was the Ferns that took an early lead.

Ferns shooters captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, both who were rested on Friday, made easy work within the circle, creating space and pulling off some clever play. Their efforts even prompted a few ‘Harrison Hoists’ from their opponents.

The Ferns’ midcourters kept passes short and sharp, avoiding easily-intercepted long bombs.

Men’s shooter Junior Levi, usually an easy target for his teammates, struggled to get free of Sulu Fitzpatrick at times. A number of changes to the men’s midcourt were made in response, which seemed to work almost instantly.

The men cut the Ferns’ lead down to three goals by halftime, setting the scene for a hotly-contested second half.

Maia Wilson and Claire Kersten came on as the Ferns’ only changes at the start of the third quarter before Kelly Jury joined later to give Fitzpatrick a rest.

Meanwhile, Cameron Powell ran on at goal attack for the men to join Levi, who stepped up to finish on 92 per cent accuracy, netting 36 of his 39 shots.

The Ferns managed to carry their slim lead into the final 15, where Taurua opted for consistency in her line-up opposed to trialling multiple combinations as seen earlier in the week.

A handful of turnovers in the Ferns’ favour saw them briefly in a more comfortable position before the men, again, proved how quickly they can score, levelling the game with five minutes to go.

But in the end, it was the Ferns who remained composed and patient to take the win in front of a jubilant Palmerston North crowd.

“It was an absolutely unreal game, this is the best prep we could ever get and ask for so we’re so thankful to the men. It’s been an unreal week,” said an ecstatic Ekenasio.

“So proud of the girls — I remember looking up at one stage thinking it was seven minutes to go but saw it was only two and I was so relieved. It’s just been a unreal experience.”

Earlier, New Zealand A claimed third place in the series with a 68-47 win over the New Zealand Under 21s.

Kate Heffernan took home player of the match after a stellar performance in the wing defence bib. The 21-year-old picked up four intercepts, four deflections and three turnovers.

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