Silver Ferns going for gold at Netball World Cup
The Silver Ferns will play for gold against old rivals Australia after holding their nerve to beat England 47-45 in the Vitality Netball World Cup semi finals on Sunday morning (NZ time).
Holding the upper hand through the first and third quarters, the Silver Ferns absorbed the rollercoaster ride and a last-ditch fightback from England, retaining their composure to keep the dogged home side at bay.
Built on a staunch defensive effort, the injection of Shannon Saunders during the third quarter, an impressive outing from Katrina Rore, at wing defence, and the shooting of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who built into the game before delivering a nerveless 25 goals from 26 attempts, got the New Zealanders home in a pulsating match.
Earlier, Australia earned their spot in the final with an equally-absorbing 55-53 win over a gallant South Africa.
“This is massive for us and I’m a bit lost for words,” a beaming Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua said afterwards.
“It’s a massive buzz, we’ve got one more game to go to actually get the gold and that’s what we’re going for.
“This win was built on character and experience and there was definitely a lot of heart and a lot of fight.
“We were underdogs coming into this game and we’ve won, so going into the final, there’s nothing else for us to worry about except getting out there and playing. It’s one of those moments you want to savour and we’re really happy to now be in contention for the gold medal.”
There were no surprises in either starting seven, both chock-full of experience and proven performers on the international stage.
The Silver Ferns retained the same starters as their previous match against Australia, with Rore at wing defence and Gina Crampton at wing attack, while England were spearheaded by outstanding goalkeeper Geva Mentor, who is attending a rare fifth World Cup.
On the back of smothering defensive pressure and the sweet shooting of Maria Folau, the Silver Ferns got away to the perfect start. Jane Watson, Casey Kopua, Rore and Laura Langman denied England opportunities on attack as the Silver Ferns scored the first five goals of the match.
Shooter Helen Housby inspired an England fightback but the Silver Ferns weathered the storm to take a 12-9 lead into the first break.
With the intensity levels continuing at full volume, England surged back on the resumption to level the scores. The New Zealanders responded with six unanswered goals to take a measure of control while forcing England to roll the dice.
Replacing pivot Chelsea Pitman (wing attack) with Natalie Haythornwaite and the swapping of shooters Housby and Jo Harten (to goal attack) worked a treat for England. Delivering better flow on attack and a bigger defensive effort, England exploded into life.
Chasing down the deficit, it was the home side who showed a new lease of life when taking a 24-21 lead into the main break.
Befitting the occasion, momentum made another shift during the third stanza, the Silver Ferns re-gathering their poise to hit back strongly.
In an increasingly tight and tense atmosphere, the women in black put the squeeze on England, Watson grabbing a fourth intercept while the experience of tireless captain Langman rose to the fore as she conducted expertly on attack while Ekenasio kept a clean sheet with 17 goals from 17 attempts.
Saunders replaced Crampton midway through the quarter as the Silver Ferns took the sting out England to draw level before a five-goal scoring streak pushed them out to a 36-33 lead heading down the home straight.