Silver Ferns show character to claim series

Silver Fern Maria Tutaia. Photo: Getty Images
Silver Fern Maria Tutaia. Photo: Getty Images
Silver Ferns 62
England 55

On a night full of emotional tributes at Claudelands Arena, the Silver Ferns delivered a fittingly passionate performance to fend off England for the Taini Jamison trophy.

Faced with the reality of being the first New Zealand side to lose a series to the Roses in 61 years of competition after Sunday's 49-46 loss in Napier, the Ferns showed huge character in a tense battle to celebrate skipper Katrina Grant's 100th test in style.

Trailing 30-26 at halftime in a see-sawing battle, Grant led a committed defensive effort that allowed the resilient Ferns line-up to claw their way back to lead by one heading into the final spell.

In a frantic final quarter, the Ferns managed to wear the English attack down, forcing shooters Jo Harten and Helen Housby, who had been impressive all match, to make a couple of crucial turnovers. A missed shot by Harten with four minutes to go gave the Ferns some handy breathing space heading into the final minutes. They carried the momentum through to the final whistle, sealing a 62-55 victory - an identical scoreline to the Ferns first-up win in last week's series opener.

It was also a big night for the woman Grant replaced as skipper. Casey Kopua, who announced her retirement from international netball earlier this year, was honoured in front of her home crowd.

The match also featured a presentation for the Silver Ferns class of 1967, coached by Taini Jamison - the woman who lent her name to the trophy, as they mark 50 years since their world championship win in Perth.

The experienced England side, which features some of the stars of the Australian domestic competition in Geva Mentor, Serena Guthrie and Harten, have asked some tough questions of the Ferns side over the last three weeks.

The ability of the Roses to unpick the Ferns' gameplan on those occasions will remain a nagging concern for coach Janine Southby as she looks ahead to the Commonwealth Games, with the two sides set to meet in pool play in next year's tournament.

The Ferns, sporting a slightly re-jigged shooting end with Maria Tutaia starting back at goal shoot to allow the athletic Bailey Mes more room to roam in the goal attack position, started with precision and purpose on attack, moving the ball with speed and flair.
Aside from a quiet patch during the middle stages of the quarter, in which England momentarily took the lead, the Ferns dictated the pace of the match. The final four minutes of the spell proved particularly productive, as the New Zealand side scored five of the last six goals of the quarter.

After a forgettable performance in Napier, in which she returned a 50 per cent shooting effort, Tutaia's radar was back on, slotting goals from all corners of the circle to help the home side out to a handy 17-13 lead at the first break.

That lead was quickly gobbled up by England after the change of ends, as the visitors ramped up their defensive intensity and aggression several notches. Smothered by the English defence, the error rate began to escalate for the Ferns, while Tutaia's shooting also went off the boil.

By mid-way through the second spell England had level the score at 22-all. By halftime they had charged into a 30-26 lead - an eight-goal turnaround.

The see-sawing nature of the match continued in third period as the Ferns set about digging themselves out of the hole they created.

The introduction of livewire defender Temalisi Fakahokotau at goal keep in place of Kelly Jury, gave the Ferns more defensive bite, with her presence in the back rattling the English attack.

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