You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
In a 59-58 win over an Aotearoa Men's team in Wellington tonight, the Ferns took the opportunity to put star young shooters Grace Nweke (19) and Tiana Metuarau (20) together on the court - with great results.
The pair were put together in the attacking third for the second half of the match with the side down a goal, and didn't take any time to form a good connection. While both converted their shots at a high rate, Metuarau's ability to see the space and assist on easy attempts for Nweke would also have been a good sign for the coaches.
In a rather stark contrast to the match between the two sides on Sunday night, the Silver Ferns performed well in the shooting circle, getting terrific looks from Gina Crampton and Maddy Gordon in the midcourt.
Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua opted to run Nweke and the experienced Maia Wilson out at goal shoot and attack respectively after the success the two had together in game one, and they started the game in the same fashion.
Nweke used her height to her advantage and made her shots count, and with Wilson shooting at a high success rate as well, she was able to draw the defence away from Nweke and free up her goal shoot for an easier look.
Led by the work of Crampton in at wing attack, the Silver Ferns capitalised on the speed and fluidity in their play to create holes and exploit them to build a 17-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After struggling for consistency and cohesion in the first 15 minutes, a change in the midcourt saw Junior Tana don the wing attack bib in the second quarter and subsequently have a huge impact in setting the men back on course.
Tana brought a sense of clarity to the court and appeared to help the rest of the team slot into their roles more effectively. Combined with the non-stop work of centre Nick Grimmer and dead-eye shooting of Jay Geldard, the men stormed right back into the contest.
While it was an issue on Sunday, the men made the most of their turnovers this time around – turning nine of their 12 takeaways into goals in the first half and going into the break with a one-goal lead.
Nweke and Metuarau came on in what was an interesting third quarter, with the men converting all 16 of their attempts at goal, but again falling behind on the scoreboard as the Silver Ferns had nine more shots.
While the Silver Ferns converted at their lowest success rate of the game, with just 72 per cent of their shots going down in the period, Nweke was able to bring in rebounds on many of the missed shots for second, third and even fourth chance goals.
Getting two goals back on the men in the quarter, the stage was set to see which side would crack in the final period of play.
For the most part, the two traded goals, with the Silver Ferns getting some important intercepts through defensive duo Kelly Jury and Karin Burger to edge the result in their favour to take a 2-0 series lead.
Silver Ferns 59 (Grace Nweke 30/36, Tiana Metuarau 17/21, Maia Wilson 12/16)
Aoteaora Men 58 (Jay Geldard 44/44, Dan Jefferies 14/17)
1Q: 17-13. HT: 28-29. 3Q: 46-45