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Silver Ferns over power hosts to clinch ZEO International Tri-Series
England fell to a 49-32 defeat against New Zealand last night in a hastily re-arranged fixture at the Crystal Palace National Sport Centre. Due to a problem with flooring at the Copper Box Arena, the match was moved thirteen miles south with the contest played in front of a much smaller crowd.
The dramatic developments off court were matched by the action on it as the two sides produced a wonderful game with brilliance laced throughout. England flew out of the blocks only to be pegged back by half-time. The visitors then charged in the third quarter and although the home team threatened briefly to surge back, a strong finish gave New Zealand a gloss to the final score line.
The hosts retained the same starting line-up from their previous fixture against Jamaica and it was the brilliant defensive combination of Geva Mentor and Eboni Beckford-Chambers who again impressed early on. A blistering opening few minutes saw the pair make athletic tips to regain possession for the team in red.
In the mid-court the trio of Jade Clarke, Serena Guthrie and Sasha Corbin were moving the ball swiftly through court to create scoring chances for Joanne Harten and Pamela Cookey. A whirlwind start saw England leave their illustrious opponents dazed, they were struggling to find feeds through to the unusually quiet Cathrine Latu.
Wonderful interceptions, clever movement and accurate scoring was keeping England in front, as the quarter neared a close Guthrie found one more moment of magic with a precise pass into Harten who had smartly delayed her run to evade the Silver Ferns defence and take possession under the post to net. This moved England into a 13-9 lead at the end of the opening fifteen minutes.
No changes were made by Anna Mayes for the second quarter as she chose to stick with the winning formula. Goals were exchanged early in the quarter with each side occasionally faltering when attempting to net, Katrina Grant matching the England defence in athletic defensive rebounds. The gap remained at four midway through the quarter.
The Silver Ferns then made a charge inspired by a piece of misfortune for the hosts. A pass forward trickled too far and when collected by the mid-court it had travelled over a third and New Zealand had claimed a turnover. A run of goals suddenly had them one behind.
A terrifically balanced Latu managed to sort her feet out in time to remain in court and level the scores from close range. Laura Langman, astonishingly playing in her 100th consecutive international match, was starting to pull the strings in the final third and her feeds to the Kiwi attackers were becoming more effective as they crept ahead 23-20 at the interval.
At half-time England brought on re-enforcements as Laura Malcolm took the WA bib and Stacey Francis replaced Clarke at WD. The momentum was firmly with the away side and they managed to dominate the early stages of the second half to quickly pull six goals clear.
More bad news was to follow for England as the inspirational Mentor was forced off after calling for a medical time-out, Beckford-Chambers shuffled back to GK with Ama Agbeze taking over at GD. The Silver Ferns continued to pile on the pressure and managed to force mistakes from their hosts as the game started to be taken away from England.
In a sign of the swing in fortunes, Malcolm fiercely rushed in to take a pass and despite slipping she retained possession. However, with three seconds looming as she picked herself up, a quick pass forward was picked off by the Ferns defence and they were able to take the ball through court to score.
Another time-out allowed for another substitution, Harten making way for Kadeen Corbin. The team bench were being vociferous on the side lines as they urged the team to get back into the game. A strong finish to the quarter meant that England were to go into the final quarter with their tails up, despite trailing 39-28.
An excellent start to the fourth quarter saw England quickly reduce the gap to eight with Agbeze working well to take defensive rebounds. The passion on court was obvious for all to see, Guthrie picking up a warning from umpire Josh Bowring for persistent contact as the mid-courter fought for another intercept.
A time-out called midway through the quarter halted the comeback and when the teams came back on court it was the Silver Ferns who finished the stronger, England only managing to get one more goal before the final whistle. In contrast New Zealand ended in fine fashion, Latu finding Jodi Brown with her trademark look-away feed, her shooting partner netting with ease.
The final score fails to tell the whole story and while the visiting Ferns were deserved winners on the night, they were certainly given plenty to think about by England. If the hosts can keep the level of play shown in the opening quarter, they will continue to pose problems to the very best in the world.
England starting 7: GS - Harten, GA - Cookey, WA - S.Corbin, C - Guthrie, WD - Clarke, GD - Beckford-Chambers, GK - Mentor
New Zealand starting 7: GS - Latu, GA - Brown, WA - Lees, C - Langman, WD - Henry, GD - Grant, GK - de Bruin
Umpires: Josh Bowring and Michelle Phippard and Sharon Kelly as reserve
Jo Harten: 14:17 – 82%
Pamela Cookey: 14/16 – 88%
Kadeen Corbin: 4/7 – 57%
Team: 32/40 – 80%
Latu: 30/36 – 83%
Brown: 19/25 – 76%
Team: 49/61 – 80%