Ferns beaten by England after second half struggles

England's Geva Mentor challenges Silver Fern Maia Wilson for the ball during the second test in...
England's Geva Mentor challenges Silver Fern Maia Wilson for the ball during the second test in Christchurch tonight. Photo: Getty Images
The Taini Jamison Trophy series has come alive after the England Roses managed to pull off a hard-fought comeback victory over the Silver Ferns tonight.

The three-test series will go to a decider on Friday night, after New Zealand were defeated 55-45 in Christchurch to level the competition.

It's the Roses' first victory over New Zealand since the 2019 January Quad Series, with a late second-half surge getting them across the line.

The Ferns led by three at halftime before a raft of positional changes looked to unsettle their otherwise strong attacking unit.

Teenage sensation Grace Nweke was among those changes as she made her long-awaited international debut. But the step-up looked a challenge for the usually dominant 19-year-old, who hit 16 of 20 attempts at 80 per cent accuracy.

Captain Sulu Fitzpatrick - filling in for the injured Gina Crampton - was more inclined to place the cause of the defeat on her experienced teammates, saying they didn't support debutants such as Nweke the way they needed to.

"England really ground hard, they brought the energy and they looked like a unit. We were disjointed and we didn't look after the new ones who took the court," she said.

"You need to do your job first and we can't put the pressure on those new ones. We need to give them good ball. That's not their fault, it's ours and we need to work as a team, not as individuals."

It took the Roses some time to settle into the match as a number of turnovers provided the Ferns a chance to pull ahead.

Playing her second test in the goal attack bib, Tiana Metuarau had the big task of following up a dream debut on Monday night, but the 20-year-old didn't look fazed for a second.

This time sharing the shooting circle with the experienced Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Metuarau continued to look confident shooting from range and handling the tough defensive tactics of Layla Guscoth.

On the other end of the court, however, England shooter Eleanor Cardwell looked far from comfortable, netting just one of four attempts.

Cardwell was head coach Jess Thirlby's only change after the break with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis coming off the bench. She made an immediate impact as the Roses attacking unit refocused and chipped away at the Ferns' small advantage.

They got as close as one goal but faded in the final five minutes before halftime to keep the difference on the scoreboard at three.

As the third quarter got underway, Nweke was thrust onto the court.

She partnered with Metuarau to form one of the Ferns' youngest and least experienced shooting duos in an international match. It was a short-lived partnership, however, with Maia Wilson subbed in for Metuarau a third of the way into the quarter, after the Roses levelled the game at 27-all.

England continued to capitalise off the Ferns' suddenly unsettled attack to take a commanding lead.

Positional changes continued throughout the final part of the match as the Ferns desperately tried to regain control. But it was too little too late as the scoreline continued to blow out - no doubt leaving plenty for head coach Dame Noeline Taurua to assess on tomorrow's day off.

The third and final test is in Christchurch on Friday night.

 

 

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