Taurua’s challenging task
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.
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.