New Zealand will meet a high-flying Jamaica in the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games netball tournament after
falling 54-44 to defending champions England in their final pool match in Birmingham.
Jamaica proved their credentials with a ground-breaking two-goal win over Australia in the match-up between the two
unbeaten teams in Pool A.
With multiple changes of personnel throughout, New Zealand threw everything at England in the match between the two
unbeaten teams in Pool B, and had their moments, but struggled to contain the experienced Roses on a consistent basis.
A strong second quarter gave the New Zealanders plenty of optimism but England’s greater shooter accuracy and oppressive
defence ensured the Roses retained overall control.
"It was a pity about the last five minutes, I thought we were holding it quite well until then but then it blew out to a
10-goal deficit which is probably the most disappointing thing,’’ New Zealand coach Dame Noeline Taurua said.
"All credit to the opposition, they were able to do what they needed to do at certain times and they did it well."
"It’s one for the drawing board, we now lick our wounds and we get ourselves ready for tomorrow. I’m looking forward to
playing Jamaica. It’s the only way we’re going to learn. I think any team can win on the day, the top four can change in
the matter of a split second, so we’ve got to be in to win.’’
Mixing and matching their line-ups during the lead-in, it was Maia Wilson, who got the nod to start at goal attack and
Kayla Johnson at wing defence for New Zealand. For an experienced England, Eleanor Cardwell edged out Jo Harten in the
goal shoot spot.
There were ominous signs for New Zealand early on, Cardwell justifying her selection in spearheading a polished start
from the home side.
It was the Roses who settled quickly and efficiently, the New Zealanders in contrast made a nervy start. Still finding
her feet at the elite level, rising young New Zealand shooter Grace Nweke was put under big pressure from the vastly
experienced Geva Mentor, playing in her sixth Commonwealth Games.
England thwarted New Zealand’s attacking options while also providing plenty of impetus on attack where Cardwell was all
class under the hoop to lead the Roses to a dominant 15-8 lead at the first break.
The response from New Zealand was immediate with the experienced Te Paea Selby-Rickit, coming on for her 53rd test,
taking over from Wilson, and the rangy Kate Heffernan coming on a wing defence.
Both had an immediate impact with Selby-Rickit settling the attack end with her movement, vision and shooting accuracy
while Heffernan added plenty of starch to the defensive end, the combined pressure opening up turnover opportunities.
With the speed of the game picking up and with it more space, midcourters Whitney Souness and Gina Crampton revelled in
the conditions. Nweke found her groove under the hoop as her feeders found her with more regularity while the defensive
end grabbed bonus ball.
Eating into the deficit and growing in confidence as they went, New Zealand made a real game of it when whittling
England’s lead to the narrowest of margins when trailing 25-24 at the main break.
Harten took over from Cardwell for the third quarter as England rocked the New Zealanders with a forceful start. Five
straight goals gave the Roses a handy buffer while the intensity of their defensive pressure forced New Zealand onto the
Bogged down in the midcourt and working overtime to move the ball forward, New Zealand pushed Heffernan into centre with
Shannon Saunders coming off the bench and into wing attack in an attempt to steady the ship.
Shooter Helen Housby was a key for England with her accuracy while defenders Mentor and Layla Guscott continued to make
life difficult for New Zealand on attack.
With their good work undone, New Zealand could not stop England from regaining the momentum when the Roses took a 39-33
lead into the last turn.
OFFICIAL RESULT AND STATS:
New Zealand: 44
Shooting Stats - New Zealand:
Maia Wilson 8/9 (89%)
Grace Nweke 23/29 (79%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 13/13 (100%)
Shooting Stats - England:
Eleanor Cardwell 26/29 (90%)
Jo Harten 5/6 (83%)
Helen Housby 23/26 (88%)