Tau­rua’s chal­leng­ing task

The Southland Times - - Sport - Andrew Vo­er­man andrew.vo­er­man@stuff.co.nz Mixed mar­tial arts

A year ago, when the Sil­ver Ferns lost to Eng­land in Auck­land in the Quad Se­ries, it came as some­what of a shock.

When that was the re­sult again on Satur­day, in the same city at the start of the same tour­na­ment, it was a re­flec­tion of the new sta­tus quo.

Eng­land have now won five of the last seven meet­ings be­tween the two teams, af­ter win­ning just four of 87 be­fore that, and the 13-goal mar­gin this time around was the big­gest they have ever man­aged.

‘‘All I can say is it’s a start for us,’’ new Ferns coach Noe­line Tau­rua said on Satur­day.

‘‘I’m clearer than I was prior to the game as to what needs to hap­pen and we’ve got a cou­ple of days to try to im­prove our per­for­mance.

‘‘One of the things we’ve talked about is con­sis­tent per­for­mance and we’ve got to im­prove. We’ve got to be bet­ter than what we were to­day.

‘‘Ev­ery­body needs to do their job, and maybe once again it’s clar­ity of what their job is that we have go over, we might need to bring it back to ba­sics.’’

As Tau­rua re­flected on her team’s de­feat, she would have found it hard to look past one col­umn of the stat sheet.

To­gether the Ferns shot just 68 per cent, their worst ef­fort in 58 tests, go­ing back to a loss to Eng­land in Oc­to­ber 2014. In­di­vid­u­ally, Ameliaranne Eke­na­sio shot 56 per cent, Maria Fo­lau 73 per cent, and Te Paea Selby-Rickit 78 per cent.

Tau­rua has made it clear those marks aren’t good enough, not that she re­ally needed to do so, and they high­light that the shoot­ing cir­cle re­mains the area where the Ferns are most in need of im­prove­ment.

Fo­lau and Eke­na­sio started against Eng­land, with the lat­ter pulled at half­time be­fore re­turn­ing in place of Fo­lau for the fi­nal quar­ter, en­sur­ing all three com­bi­na­tions spent some time on court, giv­ing Tau­rua food for thought as she pre­pares for to­mor­row’s clash with South Africa in Tau­ranga.

Teenager Aliyah Dunn is the fourth shooter in the Quad Se­ries squad, and with Tau­rua pledg­ing to give ev­ery­one a run across the three matches, it’s likely she’ll be seen at some stage too.

The Ferns fared bet­ter in the other ar­eas of the game on Satur­day, with Jane Wat­son es­pe­cially im­press­ing at goal keep af­ter a do­mes­tic sea­son where she played goal de­fence. Fur­ther up the court, Laura Lang­man and Sam Sin­clair looked to click well in their first start to­gether.

At the end of her first week in charge, Tau­rua has now seen what the Ferns look like against the Com­mon­wealth cham­pi­ons – as tough an op­po­nent as they could find right now – and that will have given her a good idea of what she needs to do.

In South Africa, the Sil­ver Ferns face a more man­age­able op­po­nent, which is what they need now, as they look to get them­selves go­ing un­der Tau­rua’s lead­er­ship.

That said, the Proteas will be look­ing to pull off an up­set, well aware they are the only team ranked in the world’s top six not to have beaten the Sil­ver Ferns this year, hav­ing watched on while Malawi and Ja­maica – on three oc­ca­sions – pulled off mem­o­rable vic­to­ries.

The Ferns’ win against South Africa in Jan­uary is one of two in 11 matches against top-six sides this year – the other was against Malawi in the Taini Jamison Tro­phy. They will be ea­ger to add an­other to­mor­row. Kiwi UFC fighter Mark Hunt has suf­fered his sec­ond loss in as many fights in 2018, af­ter a quick­fire round-one de­feat to Rus­sian Alek­sei Oleinik in Moscow yes­ter­day.

In what was the first UFC event to be held in Rus­sia, the ‘Su­per Samoan’ was forced to tap out af­ter only four min­utes and 26 sec­onds, as home­town hero Oleinik won by sub­mis­sion with a rear-naked choke.

The man known as ‘‘The Boa Con­stric­tor’’, for his chok­ing abil­ity, was at it again.

He has be­come famed for his use of the Ezekiel choke of late, but this time he made it 12 wins apiece by both that method and the rear-naked one, tak­ing his over­all record now to 57-11-1.

It was set to be a clash of styles, this main event of five fiveminute rounds, with Hunt known for his knock­out abil­ity, and Oleinik be­ing a master choker and able to get him­self out of trouble in that way.

And so it proved in quick time, with Hunt man­ag­ing to land a cou­ple of kicks, as well as a vi­cious right hand, be­fore sud­denly suf­fer­ing a cou­ple of punches and be­ing taken down with 1min 20sec left in the round.

From there he was toast. Hunt’s record is 13-13-1-1 af­ter his third loss in his past four out­ings.

PHOTOSPORT

Maria Fo­lau and the rest of the Sil­ver Ferns shoot­ers had a poor night against Eng­land in their Quad Se­ries clash in Auck­land on Satur­day.

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