Ferns in scrappy vic­tory

Im­proved Proteas test New Zealand only to fade in fi­nal stretch of Quad Se­ries opener.

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - By Dana Jo­hannsen

The new-look Silver Ferns have made a cir­cum­spect start to the in­ter­na­tional sea­son, open­ing their Quad Se­ries cam­paign with a shaky se­v­en­goal win over South Africa.

The Proteas, one of the big im­provers in world net­ball in the past 18 months, proved a dif­fi­cult op­po­nent for the Ferns to un­pick.

In a match rem­i­nis­cent of their meet­ing in Hamil­ton in last year’s in­au­gu­ral Quad Se­ries, the Proteas pushed the Ferns hard over the first half but be­came scrap­pier as the match wore on.

The South African side, led by for­mer Aus­tralian coach Norma Plum­mer, trailed by just one goal at the long break and had the New Zealand de­fend­ers scratch­ing their heads at times. But the South Africans were un­able to main­tain that level of in­ten­sity for the full 60 min­utes.

A se­ries of changes to the Ferns line-up, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of dy­namic mid­courter Whit­ney Souness for her in­ter­na­tional de­but, proved the spark for the New Zealand resur­gence as they turned a nar­row 31-30 half­time ad­van­tage into a more com­fort­able 51-42 lead head­ing into the fi­nal turn.

Souness, who be­came Silver Fern No 167 when she took the court in the third quar­ter, was im­pres­sive on de­but, hit­ting the cir­cle edge with ease and pro­vid­ing deft feeds into shoot­ers Bai­ley Mes and Maria Tu­taia, who both re­turned good num­bers.

Mes was on track to fin­ish with a per­fect 100 per cent record un­til she missed her fi­nal shot of the match from long-range in the dy­ing sec­onds. Her re­turn of 35/36 was still one of her most im­pres­sive in­ter­na­tional out­ings to date.

Silver Ferns skip­per Ka­t­rina Grant, who plays along­side Souness at the Pulse in the ANZ Premier­ship, said the young­ster’s per­for­mance was one of the ma­jor pos­i­tives the team will take from the match.

“She was ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing. She came on and did not look out of place at all, so she is one for the fu­ture for sure,” said Grant.

Grant was dis­ap­pointed with her side’s lack of con­sis­tency in what was a rusty start to the sea­son. Hav­ing done well to ab­sorb the early pres­sure from the Proteas and push out to a healthy nine-goal lead at three quar­ter time, there will be some frus­tra­tion in the New Zealand camp that their ex­e­cu­tion fell away in a scrappy fi­nal quar­ter.

South Africa won the fi­nal spell 14-12, as de­fend­ers Karla Mostert and Pre­cious Mthembu dis­rupted the Ferns’ at­tack­ing com­bi­na­tions.

“There’s a lot to im­prove on, a lot to learn from that, but South Africa came out re­ally strong and we re­ally had to grind things out,” said Grant.

In the other Quad Se­ries opener, Aus­tralia bat­tled to a 54-50 win over Eng­land af­ter floun­der­ing down the home stretch. The Di­a­monds held a com­mand­ing 10-goal lead at half­time, but po­si­tional changes dis­rupted Aus­tralia’s rhythm and the English took ad­van­tage.

But when the op­por­tu­ni­ties came to land the knock­out blow in the lat­ter stages of the match, the Roses wilted and the Aus­tralians es­caped with an un­tidy win.

The Ferns will next take on Eng­land in Auck­land on Wed­nes­day night, while South Africa meet Aus­tralia in Can­berra.

Michael Bradley

Silver Ferns skip­per Ka­t­rina Grant was dis­ap­pointed with her side’s lack of con­sis­tency last night.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.