Silver Ferns claim emphatic win

Karin Burger saves a loose ball for the Silver Ferns against Jamaica this morning in their...
Karin Burger saves a loose ball for the Silver Ferns against Jamaica this morning in their Netball Nations Cup game in Birmingham. Photo: Getty Images
Two-from-two and, just like that, the Silver Ferns have emphatically booked their spot in the Netball Nations Cup final.

It goes some way to explaining the Noeline Taurua transformation that this comprehensive 71-45 victory at the Birmingham Arena was New Zealand's first against Jamaica for four years.

During the Janine Southby era the Ferns lost their past three games against the Sunshine Girls – the last occasion coming with the five-goal defeat at the forgettable 2018 Commonwealth Games.

On the back of their World Cup success last year the Ferns are, clearly, a vastly different beast under Taurua. They now seem odds-on to add the Nations Cup title to their trophy cabinet too.

Hot on the heels of Monday's 16-goal dismantling of the heavily-depleted England side in Nottingham to open this tournament, the Ferns largely continued their new-found confidence in what is expected to be a prelim of the final after Jamaica defeat South Africa in their opening match.

Seeking to build on the momentum from her side's opening win, Taurua opted for the same starting seven.

Despite the towering presence of Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler New Zealand comfortably eased out to a seven-goal lead in the opening quarter.

Aggressive zone defence limited possession for Jamaica while at the attacking end New Zealand showed patience, speed and slick movement with their relatively new combinations.

Unlike the opening win over England, where she made mass rotations every quarter, Taurua initially kept changes to a minimum.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit's introduction for Maia Wilson, who again impressed with a remarkable 42 from 45, in the second quarter coincided with a sloppy period of loose passes and fumbles through transition play.

These repeat errors allowed Jamaica to close within two goals, though it didn't last. At this point, as the Ferns lost their way, Taurua hooked Selby-Rickit and brought back Wilson.

Jane Watson and Karin Burger, who continues to establish her presence at wing defence, nabbed several intercepts to inspire the Ferns to regain composure and stamp their authority to lead 32-22 by half time.

Taurua was somewhat limited in the changes she could make with shooter Bailey Mes, named player of the match in the Ferns opening win, not stripping for this game which left the Ferns with 10 fit squad members. Defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson has already returned home after rupturing her Achilles in a training game.

Whitney Souness took Gina Crampton's wing attack bib for the third period but Taurua seemed intent on giving her starting combinations more time to gel. That plan paid off as the Ferns continued to increase their advantage, taking the third quarter by 10 goals.

At the defensive end Watson and Phoenix Karaka tried the odd hoist to combat Fowler but it was the collective work outside the circle that often stifled Jamaica.

With the game in the bag Selby-Rickit returned mid-way through the third quarter as Taurua gave her captain, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, a well-earned rest and the shooter made better fist of her second opportunity.

In their starting roles Ekenasio and centre Shannon Saunders were influential in creating space for Wilson in particular.

Enjoying such dominance allowed Taurua to again give her full available squad valuable court time with Kimiora Poi thrown into centre for the final quarter, as she was against England, Saunders shifting to wing defence and Burger pushing to the back court.

The Ferns next meet South Africa on Sunday morning (NZT) before squaring off in the final the following day in London.

At this point it appears they will canter to the title.

- Liam Napier

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