Laura Langman's 100th test for the Silver Ferns was marked in the appropriate manner today.
Gritty, selfless and relentless, Langman will not be remembered as the most brilliant player to wear the black dress.
But no-one can touch her for heart and determination, and her team-mates showed similar qualities in their 49-32 netball win over England in London.
Coach Waimarama Taumaunu sprang something of a surprise by starting Cathrine Latu and Jodi Brown in the shooting circle.
The pair probably deserved to be there on merit. The unexpected part was that the coach had the courage to play them.
Irene van Dyk and Maria Tutaia have been the default shooting setting for so long, and deservedly so, but in this instance, Latu, especially, had to be given the court time and allowed to make mistakes and then recover from them.
The Silver Ferns' first quarter, which they finished trailing 13-9, was terrible.
The attack was as disjointed as it had been in Saturday morning's clash with Jamaica as the ball went through the court reasonably smoothly and then hit a brick wall at the circle edge.
Latu and Brown could not shake Geva Mentor and Eboni Beckford-Chambers free, and when they did, Langman and Millie Lees could not find them.
Everything was so laboured, and you wondered how long Taumaunu could resist inserting van Dyk and Tutaia.
Instead, she let the starters play through it and was rewarded.
A five-goal second-quarter deficit had become a 23-20 lead by halftime as New Zealand suddenly found their attacking rhythm.
Latu and Brown worked as a combination, rather than strangers, on the back of the quick ball driven out of defence by Leana de Bruin, Katrina Grant and Joline Henry.
The expectation was still that van Dyk and Tutaia were due any minute, but the changes never came.
A continuation of the dominance displayed towards the end of the second quarter enabled the Silver Ferns to lead 39-28 by the end of the third.
England could not live with New Zealand's constant defensive pressure and hoisted the white flag a bit.
They would have believed New Zealand could be beaten this morning, and while they were decent frontrunners, they seemed to lose heart as soon as they were relieved of the lead.
The Silver Ferns were far from perfect but can be hugely encouraged by their comeback in this match and the personnel they did it with.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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