Silver Ferns finish the Nations Cup with pride

NEW Zealand have come away with a bronze medal at the Nations Cup after a five-goal win over Uganda overnight, 62-57.

From the first goal, Amorangi Malesala (11 goals and 10 goal assists) looked cool, calm and collected in only her second test for the Silver Ferns. She was carving up the attack end with her cut and drives while not being afraid to go to the post from distance.

Malesala was willing to go to the post early which is what the Silver Ferns had been lacking of late. She shot six goals in the first term.

New Zealand’s defence has been its point of weakness over this series, but turned things around in this game to force turnovers before the ball had a chance to get on circle edge.

Uganda bounced back, being patient with the ball and waiting for the options to open up. The She Cranes were willing to make lateral passes and risk possession to get the ball down to Mary Cholhok (45 goals and three rebounds).

It’s when they were stuck at the transverse line of on the same side of the court when they struggled. Noticing that, Uganda opened up the court to get the ball into the circle.

New Zealand pulled to a slight two-goal lead from a Malesala pick up going into the first break. It was the only first quarter the Silver Ferns won in their last eight games.

Both nations continued with their starting seven out on court, leaving the players to fight it out and adapt to the momentum shifts.

Cholhok is known to post big numbers, and she did just that with 14 goals in the second quarter alone. Her strong presence under the post was difficult to stop and Uganda took advantage of the height mismatch to give the high ball in.

This was Tayla Earle‘s (38 feeds and 38 goal assists) chance to step up into the big league with Kate Heffernan and Maddy Gordon both out with injury precautions. Earle proved her worth out on court taking out player of the match honours in her second test for the Silver Ferns.

Her already established strong connection with Grace Nweke (50 goals and three rebounds) led to fearless play out on court, willing to feed the ball in from anywhere. Earle was making use of the middle channel, opening up her vision of the court’s width while prepared to give the ball into Nweke or Malesala.

Uganda’s defence was strong through Falidah Kadondi (two gains — one intercept and one rebound), always getting into the action and being a back up option in attack.

It was a level playing field come half time, with either side sitting on 30 goals apiece.

The Silver Ferns got a little sniff of success early, getting a handy rebound off a Uganda miss that they were able to treasure and score from down their end.

The fresh legs of Whitney Souness (15 feeds and 11 goal assists) proved just what New Zealand needed in the attack end. Her pass and cuts gave her lot of space to do what she loves and gave her space in the pocket for a high release into Nweke.

A lot of contact to start the second half just went to show how tightly contested this match up is, with both nations wanting to get the win.

New Zealand started to pull away slowly from slight misconnections in the She Cranes attack end, and to the Silver Ferns’ credit, they were able to convert smoothly.

The shift of Phoenix Karaka (two gains — one intercept and one rebound) out front gave her more space to run through the line of the ball and go for the passes that weren’t high in the air. Her best work comes from ground ball and gains on the body rather than in the air against the likes of Cholhok.

In an instant, New Zealand was up by six goals.

Uganda put itself back into the contest, trailing by three goals going into the last break.

Three goals in a row from Shadiah Nassanga (six goals, seven feeds and six goal assists) then got the She Cranes right back in it and reduced the deficit to just one.

The feeds from the Silver Ferns midcourt were pin point accurate and they still had speed to burn. It looked like Souness and Earle had all the space in the world.

Another massive intercept from Kadondi wasn’t enough to push Uganda over the line and saw New Zealand come out victors.

Player of the Match: Tayla Earle (NZL)

NEW ZEALAND                 16 | 14 | 16 | 16 (62)

UGANDA                         14 | 16 | 13 | 14 (57)


New Zealand

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Amorangi Malesala
WA: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
GD: Karin Burger
GK: Phoenix Karaka


GS: Mary Cholhok
GA: Irene Eyaru
WA: Sarah Nakiyunga
C: Margaret Baagala
WD: Sandra Nambirige
GD: Falidah Kadondi
GK: Haniisha Muhameed

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