DAY 2 of the Cadbury Series delivered as the New Zealand Men’s side flexed their muscles in a strong showing against the Silver Ferns to remain the only undefeated side in the competition. The contest between the Under 21s and New Zealand A side lived up to the hype as the game went down to the wire credit to the two sides pushing each other to their limits in an enthralling match.
New Zealand A (57) defeated New Zealand Under 21s (53)
It was a close contest from start to finish between the New Zealand A and Under 21s, with the young guns getting the fast start and exploding out of the blocks. While the A Team weathered the storm, the 21s were relentless with player of the match Saviour Tui holding ground in goal shooter and commanding the ball left, right and centre. While it was the Under 21s that held ground early, leading at the first change thanks to a 100 per cent shooting efficiency, the NZA team came out flying in the second with their defensive pressure switching on and forcing a couple of missed opportunities in and around the goal circle. As the third quarter came around the youngsters of the 21s outfit continued to fight every second, seeing the scoreline switch in their favour once more, although the level and experienced heads of the NZA team proved crucial, fighting back once more to steal the final quarter lead and hold on for a four goal victory. Neither team could afford to let up, both coming in off the back of day one losses, and while the 21s side came off second best this time, there were plenty of pros to take out of this performance and the great young talent coming up through the New Zealand pathways.
The two goal shooters were the lynchpins out the front, with Tui and Ellie Bird dominating to post for their respective teams and finding plenty of space. A heap of young talent stepped up to the challenge all across the court, with Kimiora Poi returning to the A’s side after a stint with the Ferns yesterday, while Maddy Gordon and Kate Heffernan were key cogs through the midcourt. Defensively, the likes of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong were constant threats with their long arms and ability to put pressure on both the feeder and receiver, while Kate Burley also got her time on court. At the other end, there is no doubt the Tactix front-end worked wonders for the A team with Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit starting together out the front. While the duo plied their trade for the first half, both Aliyah Dunn and Jamie Hume also took the court, finding a heap of the ball.
For the 21s, captain Tiana Metuarau held down the fort well throughout the match, and while she only put up nine goals from 10 attempts, she registered a whopping 20 goal assists alongside Tayla Earle and Ainsleyana Puleiata, with the former showcasing her speed and consistent fight. An exciting young talent rising through the ranks Puleiata proved her ability to hit circle edge and find Tui, Metuarau and Khiarna Williams at the post. While Williams did not spend a wealth of time on court, her clean movement allowed Tui to continuously dominate to post, with the youngster plying her trade in goal shooter with 40 goals at 91 per cent. At the back-end, the likes of Taneisha Fifita and Parris Mason may not be the cleanest defenders combining for 22 penalties, but their work rate and excitement-factor was excellent, never letting up and forcing uncharacteristic misses from the NZA side as well as a couple of long bombs from Bird and Dunn who are not necessarily comfortable from range.
Silver Ferns (47) defeated by New Zealand Men’s (60)
The Men’s side burst out of the blocks weathering the storm of the Silver Ferns and playing with a wealth of freedom across the court to claim an impressive 13 goal victory. Their long bombs into the circle paid dividends while their quick transition down court enabled them to bypass the defensive hands over pressure from the Ferns and score with ease. The Silver Ferns lacked their signature drive and movement in the early stages of the game but a switch up in the second quarter saw the Ferns steadily eat into the margin and turn the tables marginally. The speed in which the game was played was simply breathtaking as the ball whizzed up and down in the court in a heartbeat for both sides. Neither side left any ball uncontested as players flew at every single pass in hope to regain possession and create opportunities to steam down court and score. The men’s side starred in the third term, coming out with a pep in their step and capitalising on each opportunity that came their way to add scoreboard pressure and dominate. That theme continued throughout the final term as they pushed ahead and made full use of their silky ball movement and defensive pressure.
The introduction of Grace Nweke had a profound impact with the likes of Sam Winders and Whitney Souness able to spot the goal shooter with great ease and relative accuracy. Nweke proved she was no slouch, holding her own against the likes of Jake Schuster to command the ball and hit the scoreboard time and time again to finish with 16 goals but was well and truly down on her accuracy, rushing her attempts at goal to sit at 68 per cent efficiency. Ameliaranne Ekenasio only had limited minutes on court but managed to slot 12 of her 14 attempts. Winders’ move into the centre worked wonders with the defensive minded midcourter bringing a strong physical presence and hunt for the ball to create a wealth of tips and deflections finishing with two gains to her name. The old firm in Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders once again combined to thread the needle and deliver into the frequently changing circle with 14 goal assists to their name. Defensively the Silver Ferns had their work cut out for them with Sulu Fitzpatrick flexing her muscles back in goal keeper with four gains to her name while Karin Burger showcased her versatility to swing between wing defence and goal defence with ease amassing three intercepts while Kelly Jury made a lasting impact with a couple of gains,
Junior Levi proved to be a thorn in the Ferns’ side with his ability to shake up his game play in a blink of an eye and most importantly hit the scoreboard. He showcased not only his aerial ability but so too fancy footwork to dance around his opponent and open up the space. Inflicting pain on the scoreboard, Levi showed his hand in defence pulling on the goal keeper bib in the final quarter reeling in an intercept to cap off a solid performance that saw him finish with 40 goals at 91 per cent efficiency. Schuster seemed to have a ball of his own, winning back a wealth of ball thanks to his nine gains, three of which were intercepts while Joseph Tukaki starred thanks to his read of the play amassing six deflections, four of which resulted in a gain. Cameron Powell was his usual speedy self across the court, leaving his opposition in the dust thanks to his speed and quick hands racking up 12 goal assists while Kruze Tangira left no stone unturned in attack collecting 17 goal assists and plying his trade in defence to pickup five intercepts and a couple of deflections.
New Zealand Men v. New Zealand A
NZA were pushed to their limits by the Under 21s last night, only managing to get the job done in the dying seconds of the match. On the other hand the Men’s side oozed control and cleanliness across the court exploiting the Silver Ferns and their new connections something they will once again be hoping to do. Although slight in stature Gordon is a real barometer for NZA with her speed across the court but could be evenly matched by the likes of Deepak Patu and Jaryn Tainui through the midcourt while both Bird and Dunn will have to bring their a-game to combat Tukaki and Schuster.
Silver Ferns v. New Zealand Under 21s
Despite suffering a narrow loss against NZA there is plenty of positives to come out of the Under 21s with their attack on the ball both in attack and defence exciting to watch. They proved they were not overawed by the challenge constantly stepping up to the plate and shining. The Ferns are not afraid to make wholesale changes to test out new combinations as they search for that winning line-up and take full advantage of their quick ball speed something they will be hoping to implement against the Under 21s. It will be a battle in the goal circle with Maia Wilson up one end for the Ferns and Tui up the other for the Under 21s. Tui is in scintillating form, building a strong connection with Metuarau an area the Ferns will hope to stop through Jury and Burger.