Silver Ferns pull away late to beat Jamaicans
NATHAN BURDON IN GLASGOW
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Led by their veteran defensive pairing, the Silver Ferns have produced a come-from-behind win over Jamaica to book a semifinal spot against England on Saturday (NZ time).
The defending champions trailed 24-23 at halftime against a Usain Bolt-inspired Jamaican team before winning 50-42 after a superb performance from skipper Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin to balance out a below-par shooting performance.
Regardless of how they did it, this was a gutsy performance from a New Zealand team who some were predicting might struggle to even medal in Glasgow after some patchy pool play.
With the injured Maria Tutaia and Cathrine Latu both still being 'managed', Halpenny started at goal shoot and Jodi Brown at goal attack.
Liana Leota was back at wing attack after making her international debut as a goal attack against St Lucia, while Laura Langman and Joline Henry completed the midcourt.
Casey Kopua started at goal defence, with Leana de Bruin at goal keep.
It was a composed start by the Silver Ferns who converted the opportunities they were working hard to create.
Intercepts and rebounds by Kopua helped to keep New Zealand ahead of the running, by midway through the half the lead was six but the Jamaicans managed to break back towards the end of the quarter to trail 14-11.
New Zealand's option taking around the circle edge was very tidy from Leota and Langman, while the combination of Halpenny and Brown initally looked much more mature than it actually is, a couple of pinpoint long bombs from Brown into the post looked years in the making.
The experience of Brown was obvious as she carried the bulk of the shooting responsibilities.
At the other end of the court, the New Zealand defence was making life hard for the Jamaican feeders to get ball into Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
The Jamaicans increased the pressure by adding the height of Kasey Evering and Romelda Aiken to the defensive circle for the second quarter and the move paid dividends.
With six minutes left in the half the Sunshine Girls had drawn level at 20-all before Fowler-Reid shot them into the lead as the momentum swung Jamaica's way.
Stunning pieces of defensive play by Kopua and de Bruin to close out the half went without rewards as Halpenny missed consecutive shots and the Ferns trailed 24-23 at the break.
The shooting by both teams was colder than a Scottish loch after the break, but eventually New Zealand was able to convert a breaking call to regain the lead and take a two goal advantage into the final break.
It was New Zealand who held their nerve better in the final quarter of what was a sometimes testy affair, with the final scoreline not a reflection of what had come before.
Unbeaten Australia topped pool B after a 64-40 win over South Africa, with England second in the group.