Nweke can’t save Silver Ferns

Grace Nweke shoots for the Northern Mystics earlier this year. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Grace Nweke shoots for the Northern Mystics earlier this year. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Trailing 2-0 in the four-test series, the Silver Ferns turn their attention to home court advantage after losing the second Constellation Cup match in Brisbane on Sunday night.

Following Thursday’s 10-goal loss, the Silver Ferns welcomed back influential shooter Grace Nweke for her first game since sustaining a knee injury at the Netball World Cup.

Still on restricted minutes, Nweke featured in the second and fourth quarters, coincidentally the Silver Ferns’ best.

"We reduced the margin by a goal but we’ve got heaps more to give and we’re really looking forward to getting back to New Zealand," Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio said.

"Australia have really shown how good they are. They’re all class but we have to step up, we have to be able to take it to them."

The Silver Ferns started well as rookie shooter Amelia Walmsley was in good touch under the hoop, converting all nine of her first-quarter opportunities. But untimely lapses from the Silver Ferns handed the early momentum to the hosts.

In a bid to stall Australia’s slick speed on attack, Jane Watson was introduced at goal keep, and a late rally from the Silver Ferns kept them in contact when Australia took a 16-11 lead into the first break.

Nweke scored her first goal within 30 seconds of her return, and her presence under the hoop added cohesion to the Silver Ferns attack line. With Watson and Karin Burger hunting relentlessly at the other end, the Silver Ferns created turnover opportunities to close the gap to three.

However, they wasted several opportunities and with Diamonds goal shoot Cara Koenen continuing her impressive form of the first test, Australia wrested back the initiative to lead 28-23 at halftime.

Walmsley returned for the third quarter, but the speed of ball from captain Liz Watson and ever-present shooter Koenen ensured the Diamonds delivered a master class in unpicking the Silver Ferns defence line. At the other end, Australia’s in-circle defenders squeezed the Silver Ferns shooters with their relentless hustle and suffocating presence in helping to stretch the home side’s lead.

The second leg of the Constellation Cup now heads to New Zealand with the third test being played in Invercargill on Thursday night.


Constellation Cup
The scores
Cara Koenen 33/33, Kiera Austin 21/26, Sophie Dwyer 1/1
Silver Ferns 46
Grace Nweke 21/24, Amelia Walmsley 17/10, Ameliaranne Ekenasio 6/9, Tiana Metuarau 2/2
Quarter scores: 16-11, 28-23, 41-32.