Ferns still work in progress,

In­con­sis­tency, er­rors mar start of net­ballers’ come­back to the top

The Northern Advocate - - Local News - Liam Napier

Once again, not nearly good enough from the Sil­ver Ferns. Their quest to turn the page in 2019 dis­played early signs of prom­ise. At this level, though, mer­i­to­ri­ous ul­ti­mately counts for lit­tle.

For the first half of this match at least, the Ferns went toe to toe with Eng­land in Liver­pool to open the north­ern Quad Se­ries.

As the con­test wore on, though, the ex­pe­ri­enced hosts com­fort­ably pulled away; their dom­i­nant 54-41 vic­tory con­firm­ing their favouritism to claim this tour­na­ment for the first time.

Noe­line Tau­rua used all 12 squad mem­bers and handed test de­buts to de­fender Erena Mikaere, who re­placed Jane Wat­son in the third quar­ter, and 21-year-old mid­courter Kimiora Poi, who was in­jected just be­fore half time.

But hav­ing set a tar­get of two wins from three in this se­ries, which comes six months out from the Net­ball World Cup at this same venue, much work re­mains for Tau­rua over the next six days be­fore fac­ing Aus­tralia in Lon­don.

That is now a must-win sce­nario to sug­gest gen­uine progress is be­ing made.

As it stands, this re­sult equalled New Zealand’s worst de­feat to Eng­land — Tau­rua’s first match at the helm in Auck­land last Septem­ber.

One win from the last six tests is poor by any­one’s stan­dards.

But, like any­thing, con­text is im­por­tant.

Eng­land have now won four-straight matches against the Ferns and six of the past nine. They are also, of course, Com­mon­wealth Games cham­pi­ons, hav­ing stunned Aus­tralia on the Gold Coast last year.

And in front of a bois­ter­ous home crowd, they started with in­tent to prove that re­sult was no fluke.

The Ferns, by com­par­i­son be­gan poorly, con­ced­ing the first three goals.

The ex­pe­ri­enced Ser­ena Guthrie owned the mid­court, giv­ing Sam Sin­clair, start­ing at cen­tre, a dif­fi­cult time.

The Ferns re­grouped to es­tab­lish at­tack­ing flu­id­ity but Eng­land did enough to hold a 13-12 first quar­ter ad­van­tage.

Casey Kopua’s re­turn, the for­mer skip­per play­ing her first in­ter­na­tional since 2015 af­ter com­ing out of re­tire­ment, brought re­wards in com­bi­na­tion with Jane Wat­son.

Eng­land’s re­united shoot­ing duo, He­len Housby and Jo Harten, are one of the best in the world yet the Ferns pair forced Eng­land back, ap­plied pres­sure and ex­tracted sev­eral er­rors.

With Laura Lang­man driv­ing through court from wing de­fence, Ameliaranne Eke­na­sio punch­ing out of the cir­cle and Whit­ney Souness loop­ing around, the Ferns’ at­tack showed pa­tience but frus­trat­ing, er­ratic mo­ments and in­de­ci­sion were still too ev­i­dent.

Too of­ten Sin­clair proved the weak link. Thus she was pulled just be­fore half time, with Poi tak­ing her place.

At half time, Eng­land main­tained their one-goal lead.

There af­ter it seemed ev­ery time the Ferns threat­ened in­di­vid­ual er­rors or missed con­nec­tions pre­vailed. The fi­nal quar­ter but one ex­am­ple; de­fender Karin Burger binned for ag­gres­sive con­tact.

The third quar­ter also proved costly as the Ferns slipped 10 goals be­hind.

The shoot­ing end, Maria Fo­lau (29/32) and Eke­na­sio (12/13), pro­duced high per­cent­ages but did not re­ceive enough qual­ity ball.

Plenty, then, for Tau­rua to pon­der. In the other half of this dou­ble header, Aus­tralia got off to a shaky start with their fi­nal 62-45 win over South Africa prov­ing flat­ter­ing.

Aus­tralian coach Lisa Alexander’s ini­tial ex­per­i­men­tal line-up was ex­posed early as Norma Plum­mer’s South Africa ap­plied early pres­sure and shot out to a sur­prise five-goal lead at the firstquar­ter mark.

That forced Alexander to in­ject her more ex­pe­ri­enced fig­ures, al­low­ing Aus­tralia to grad­u­ally pull away.

South Africa will take heart, though, this per­for­mance a vast im­prove­ment on the 24-goal de­feat the last time th­ese teams met.

For Aus­tralia, de­fend­ing world cham­pi­ons, Bas­sett’s ab­sence was clear and South Africa shooter Lenize Pot­gi­eter had am­ple room to move for much of the match.

Pho­tos / Pho­to­sport

Karin Burger goes shoul­der to shoul­der with Eng­land’s He­len Housby.

Casey Kopua re­turned to in­ter­na­tional net­ball in yes­ter­day’s loss.

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