Ferns mull Lang­man change

At a glance

Manawatu Standard - - Sport - Bren­don Egan bren­[email protected]

Laura Lang­man’s move to wing de­fence might just last one game.

The Sil­ver Ferns skip­per played the full 60 min­utes at wing de­fence in yes­ter­day’s 54-41 loss to Eng­land in their North­ern Quad Se­ries opener in Liver­pool, their fourth straight loss to the Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­lists.

Lang­man started all seven games in the cen­tre bib to fin­ish 2018 un­der new Sil­ver Ferns coach Noe­line Tau­rua. Fol­low­ing the 13-goal loss, which equalled their record los­ing mar­gin to the Roses set last Sep­tem­ber, Tau­rua ad­mit­ted she was weigh­ing up re­turn­ing Lang­man to cen­tre against Aus­tralia on Sun­day in Lon­don.

Mid­court stand­out Lang­man is adept in ei­ther role, but nei­ther Sam Sin­clair or debu­tante Kimiora Poi were able to im­pose them­selves at cen­tre. They both found the go­ing tough against ex­pe­ri­enced English star Ser­ena Guthrie and the Ferns bat­tled to es­tab­lish con­nec­tions with their shoot­ing end and get the ball in smoothly, cour­tesy of strong de­fence from the Roses.

Lang­man of­fers the Ferns a calm­ing fig­ure in the mid­dle of the court on both at­tack and de­fence and they missed her pres­ence there with Sin­clair de­liv­er­ing a quiet show­ing and guilty of too many turnovers.

Tau­rua will quickly need to de­cide dur­ing the Quad Se­ries where Lang­man’s best po­si­tion in the mid­court lies with time tick­ing un­til July’s Net­ball World Cup, which will be held at M&S Bank Arena, the same venue as yes­ter­day’s game.

‘‘To be hon­est, I may have to look at that again and see what we can do to have more fire­power or di­rec­tion in that at­tack­ing end or hard drives. [Lang­man] cer­tainly pro­vides that there,’’ Tau­rua told Stuff.

‘‘The off­set to that is what it looks like in goal de­fence [without Lang­man at wing de­fence]. I can def­i­nitely ex­plore that as an op­tion [against Aus­tralia].’’

The loss to Eng­land was the Sil­ver Ferns’ 14th in their past 22 matches since the start of 2018. It was also their sixth loss to Eng­land in their last eight games with the Roses demon­strat­ing why they are World Cup ti­tle favourites along­side Aus­tralia. New Zealand showed prom­ise in the first half, trail­ing 25-24 at half­time, but were blown away in the third quar­ter, where they al­lowed Eng­land to score five straight goals and build a 31-25 lead.

Eng­land won the third term 15-6 to take a 40-30 ad­van­tage into the fi­nal quar­ter, which the Ferns were never go­ing to peg back.

Silly er­rors plagued the Ferns in the third term, com­mit­ting eight turnovers and only be­ing able to put up eight at­tempts at goal, com­pared to Eng­land’s 18.

‘‘I thought some of the ba­sics, so not ex­e­cut­ing or not even get­ting the cen­tre pass away and turnover of ball at cer­tain times [was crit­i­cal] and be­cause of that they ended up get­ting the ball back and putting it through the hoop,’’ Tau­rua said.

‘‘There’s ba­sic skill er­rors that are costly at cer­tain times. Set strate­gies that aren’t work­ing be­cause we’re not com­mit­ting fully to them. Com­ing up against Aus­tralia, we will find out whether we have pro­gressed or not.’’

While un­happy with the Ferns’ sec­ond­half show­ing, where they were outscored 29-17, Tau­rua was pleased with how Maria Fo­lau and the re­turn­ing Ameliaranne Eke­na­sio went in the shoot­ing end, con­vert­ing 41/45 (91 per cent) as a duo.

Shoot­ing hurt the Ferns in the Quad Se­ries and Con­stel­la­tion Cup at the end of last year and Tau­rua said it was an en­cour­ag­ing sign. Get­ting Fo­lau and Eke­na­sio greater op­por­tu­ni­ties to put the ball through the hoop was the chal­lenge with Eng­land hav­ing 66 at­tempts for the game, com­pared to New Zealand’s 45.

‘‘I’m really happy with that, that both Mels [Eke­na­sio] and Ria [Fo­lau] were able to do that and do their job. That’s really a pleas­ing as­pect I sup­pose.’’

Ferns cen­tu­rion and for­mer skip­per Casey Kopua also got through a full game in her re­turn to the black dress. Kopua was play­ing her first in­ter­na­tional in 1171 days after last ap­pear­ing in the 2015 Con­stel­la­tion Cup.

A plan­tar fas­cia foot in­jury thwarted Kopua’s come­back at the end of 2018, but she had her mo­ments against Eng­land, pick­ing up two in­ter­cepts, two re­bounds, as well as sev­eral de­fen­sive tips. (Jo Harten: 27/32, He­len Housby: 25/31, Natalie Haythorn­th­waite 2/3) (Maria Fo­lau: 28/31, Ameliaranne Eke­na­sio: 13/14)

1Q: 13-12, HT: 25-24, 3Q: 40-30.

Eng­land 54

New Zealand 41

scores:

Quar­ter

ACTIONPLUS/PHO­TO­SPORT

Sil­ber Ferns goal de­fence Casey Kopua leaps high to block a shot by Eng­land’s He­len Housby dur­ing yes­ter­day’s match in Liver­pool.

GETTY IM­AGES

Sil­ver Ferns cap­tain Laura Lang­man may switch to cen­tre against Aus­tralia after a tough day for the Kiwi mid­court against Eng­land.

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