NZ level the test
New Zealand Silver Ferns have levelled the series with a 57-36 win over the Vitality Roses at the Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua.
The world number two side raced out of the blocks to take a 17-10 lead, but England responded to bring the deficit back to four by halftime.
But in the second half, a steely defensive display from New Zealand’s Kelly Jury and Player of the Match Phoenix Karaka thwarted the Roses’ attacking play as the Silver Ferns claimed victory in the second test.
The two sides will battle it out for the Taini Jamison Trophy in the final match of the series on Saturday 30 September, live on Sky Sports Mix and YouTube from 7.00am (UK time).
Vitality Roses starting seven: Halimat Adio (GK), Vicki Oyesola (GD), Amy Carter (WD), Elle McDonald (C), Hannah Joseph (WA), Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (GA), Sasha Glasgow (GS)
>Substitutes: Alice Harvey, Berri Neil, Jayda Pechova, Ellie Rattu, Alicia Scholes
New Zealand starting seven: Kelly Jury (GK), Phoenix Karaka (GD), Kate Heffernan (WD), Maddy Gordon (C), Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (WA), Ameliaranne Ekenasio (GA), Amelia Walmsley (GS)
Substitutes: Karin Burger, Tiana Metuarau, Whitney Souness, Jane Watson, Maia Wilson
Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio got the Silver Ferns up and running putting up two quick goals as an unchanged Vitality Roses were caught out on their first centre pass. Determined to bounce back from defeat in the first test, Dame Noeline Taurua’s side pressed England in all areas of the court. Defensive duo Kelly Jury and Phoenix Karaka gave Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Sasha Glasow no time to find any rhythm in the shooting circle as they forced the Roses into a number of unforced errors. In the middle of the court, Maddy Gordon was influential and helped orchestrate the play for the Silver Ferns as the hosts took a 12-4 lead with just under five minutes to play. Vitality Roses Head Coach Liana Leota turned to the bench and called on Berri Neil in place of Drakeford-Lewis as Sasha Glasow moved back into Goal Attack. Just before the first break, New Zealand managed to extend their lead even further through teenage debutant Amelia Walmsley as Hannah Joseph was called for held ball. But just before the buzzer, Glasgow capitalised on a penalty sinking a long bomb from the edge of the circle to bring the score to 17-7.
Liana Leota made her second change of the game during the break as she enlisted Alicia Scholes in place of Joseph. The young wing attack was immediately pressed by Kate Heffernan who rushed out from the back before making a huge feed from deep in the middle of the court to find Walmsley under the post, much to the delight of the home crowd. But England responded immediately as they pushed the Silver Ferns back from the circle edge who eventually threw the ball into the path of Elle McDonald who tipped the ball to Vicki Oyesola. This seemed to swing the momentum into the Vitality Roses’ favor as a few minutes later the Silver Ferns tried to send a long ball into the circle but Halimat Adio reached out in front of Walmsley to make the tip. Ellie Rattu replaced McDonald and Amy Carter moved into Centre as England continued to put the home side under pressure. Brilliant vision from Glasgow in the midcourt found Neil under the post who settled into the attack well in the second quarter putting up 13 goals. As the first half came to a close, England managed to close the gap to just four, going on a run of five unanswered goals in the last couple of minutes to take the quarter 16-10.
In the first couple of minutes of the second half the Vitality Roses were caught out for a couple of offensive contact calls in the attacking end as the Silver Ferns scored four goals at the start of the third quarter. Leota continued to freshen up the Roses seven as Drakeford-Lewis returned to the court in place of Glasgow meanwhile Jayda Pechova came on for her England debut in place of Adio at Goal Keeper. Similar to what they did well in the first quarter, Jury and Karaka were ruthless in picking up the rebounds under the post, claiming four in the space of eight minutes in the third quarter as they made it difficult for England’s attacking end. With just under a couple of minutes left before the final break, McDonald returned Centre in place of Carter. The Silver Ferns picked up another tip under the post and moved quickly into attack as Walmsley showed great balance to keep the long ball in play on the goal line and help the hosts move up to 39-30 on the scoreboard.
The Silver Ferns remained unchanged going into the final quarter but buoyed by their fans, they continued to pile the pressure on England. As the Roses tried to find space in the corners of the court, the Silver Ferns’ defence were quick to react as they went on a run of seven consecutive goals at the start of the final quarter. Adio, Carter and Glasgow all returned in place of Pechova, McDonald and Drakeford-Lewis as the Roses tried to stem the flow of New Zealand. Jury and Karaka continued to frustrate the Roses with their relentless pressure at the back as they conceded just six goals in the final quarter. The Silver Ferns racked up 18 goals in the final 15 minutes to take the final score to 57-36 and take the series to a decider on Saturday.
Reflecting on her team’s performance, Vitality Roses Head Coach said: “They showed that fight and determination to pull it back so closely in the second quarter and then the third quarter. I thought there were patches of consistency, but we just let them go. We missed a couple of shots at crucial moments but how they [New Zealand] finished and how they started, I think that’s what we need to work on.
“I think in the first test we were very fearless because we hadn’t experienced it before and we just played with that freedom, but then moving into test two it’s like “how do you back that up?” And so, we will grow with that.”
Co-captain Sophie Drakeford-Lewis added: “There was some really good stuff in there, but it wasn’t consistent enough from us today against a quality side and we always knew that they were going to be really solid. There’s a lot to learn from that test match but we look forward to Saturday.”
Watch the final test between the New Zealand Silver Ferna and the Vitality Roses on Saturday 30 September, live on Sky Sports Mix and YouTube from 7.00am (UK time).