Silver Ferns edge England in thrillling semifinal

NATHAN BURDON IN GLASGOW
Last updated 22:34 02/08/2014
AGONY AND ECSTACY: The Silver Ferns celebrate their nail-biting victory as a dejected English player leaves the court in disbelief.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX MEDIA NZ

AGONY AND ECSTACY: The Silver Ferns celebrate their nail-biting victory as a dejected English player leaves the court in disbelief.

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For the second game in a row at these Commonwealth Games, the Silver Ferns found a way to win when they probably shouldn't have but now get a chance to win a third straight gold medal tomorrow.

New Zealand subdued a fired-up England 35-34, with Maria Tutaia slotting the winning goal in the final act of the game.

England, desperate to break their record of three consecutive bronze medals at the Games, were roared on by a parochial British crowd at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre but ultimately fell just short of what would have been just their fourth win over New Zealand in 82 games.

It was heartbreak for England, who also lost by one goal to Australia during pool play.

New Zealand will look back on a game where their accuracy went missing at crucial times and they were unable to win many of the big moments.

There were too many balls sailing out of court and feeders too often had to use the bailout option of a pass back into the centre third - probably not surprising given the injury disruptions the Silver Ferns have had to contend with.

''Frustrating, because I felt we did some great defensive work, we took the ball out really well, particularly in the first half, and then came to a halt in and around the circle edge,'' Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu said.

''Having said that I think I have to recognise the efforts of Geva [Mentor] in particular and Eboni Beckford-Chambers, they are an outstanding defensive unit. We always knew it was going to be tough and I think we made it equally tough for their shooters.''

Taumaunu is confident of having Cathrine Latu available after a calf strain for the final against Australia, who defeated Jamaica 57-42 in the other semifinal, tomorrow at 11.30pm (NZ time).

The Silver Ferns started the semifinal against England with the same shooting combination which played against Jamaica, Taumaunu preferring the healthy legs of goal shoot Ellen Halpenny and goal attack Jodi Brown.

Tutaia was able to warm up with the team despite her foot strain, and replaced Halpenny after the first quarter.

The rest of the side was a predictable lineup with Liana Leota, Laura Langman and Joline Henry making up the midcourt and captain Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin anchoring the defensive circle.

As Tutaia struggled to adjust to the game, an increasingly confident England team went on a 6-2 run to lead 16-12 midway through the quarter and the next break saw Katrina Grant replace de Bruin partway through the second quarter.

''I don't imagine Maria would describe it as a vintage performance on her behalf. She took a while to settle into her shooting, she hasn't played for a little while,'' Taumaunu said.

''The issue with injuries in tournaments like this when people miss games, you have to reconnect the flow back in-game and unfortunately the timing of Maria's injury is such that we have to reconnect her in a semifinal. It's something we needed to do, it wasn't an easy thing to do.''

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Taumaunu opted to bring Grant into the game as a point of difference given de Bruin, Kopua and Harten were all Magic teammates this season.

''I just felt that Jo [Harten] knew Casey and Leana pretty well and I wanted to put something in there that was a little bit different - a bit more mongrel, and that is Katrina. She really gave the goal attack a hard time and it put our best shot marker and rebounder back in the circle.''

Harten's cool left hand shooting was a soothing balm for the English, while the Mystics-bound Serena Guthrie was a constant nuisance and Beckford-Chambers wasn't far behind.

Langman was carrying English defenders around like a backpacker on a trek to Machu Picchu, while Tutaia started to find her range and the Silver Ferns somehow managed to turn a 19-15 deficit into a 20-19 halftime lead.

Mentor was huge towards the end of the game but New Zealand found a way to get back to level terms heading into the final quarter.

Consecutive held ball calls were the worst possible start the Silver Ferns could have made to the last quarter and England had plenty of chances to win in the dying stages.

Brown had the ball in her hands to settle the game, but when she missed Tutaia was on hand to grab the rebound and put away the winning goal.

Quarter scores (NZ first): 10-10, 20-19, 29-29, 35-34

Shooting stats

NZ: Jodi Brown 6/6 (80%), Ellen Halpenny 4/6 (67%), Maria Tutaia 15/25 (60%)

England: Jo Harten 20/25 (80%), Kadeen Corbin 14/22 (64%)

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