Silver Ferns hold off spirited England Roses to win Taini Jamison Trophy
The Silver Ferns have held off a strong challenge from the England Roses to win the Taini Jamison Trophy.
They came from four goals behind at halftime to win 62-55 at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton on Wednesday night, and take the series 2-1.
But the closeness of the match - and their previous three against the same opponents - suggests they have plenty of tough battles ahead, as they continue to build towards next year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where they will meet England in pool play.
The game was captain Katrina Grant's 100th, and she said afterwards that her team simply wanted it more.
"I think the way we coped tonight, especially in the fourth quarter, it was definitely learnings from our last few games, and especially the one in Napier [Sunday's 49-46 loss]. We definitely learned from that, and we had to step it up, and we wanted it more.
"We definitely wanted this game tonight. I think when our backs are up against the wall, we seem to perform, and that's always a good sign, heading into an Australian test series."
Grant became the Silver Ferns' seventh centurion as the game started, joining teammate Maria Tutaia and five others - Irene van Dyk, Laura Langman, Lesley Rumball, Leana de Bruin and Casey Kopua - but at halftime, down by four, it looked like her special night may have been headed for a disappointing ending.
In the end, they managed to turn it around, and Grant said it didn't take a lot to get them going at the break.
"We know where we go wrong, and you don't need much to motivate our group. We all know what we're doing wrong and where we need to improve it. It's just actually executing it."
There was only one goal in it for most of the first quarter, as both teams began with some quick and accurate play, but the Ferns' defence stepped up towards the end and they opened up a four-goal lead.
Leading the way early was Tutaia, who showed no sign of her struggles from the second test, and bettered her tally of eight goals from that game on Sunday inside the opening spell on Wednesday, where she made 11, going on to finish with a game-high 41 from 52, playing at goal shoot rather than goal attack.
As the second quarter began, the Silver Ferns struggled to find their rhythm, especially in the attacking half of the court, with Tutaia's long shots not dropping as they did in the first, and their inability to keep the score ticking over allowed England to come back at the other end and take the lead.
Roses goal shoot Jo Harten was in good form on her return to Hamilton, where she found herself up against former Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic teammate Kelly Jury, in a battle she got the better of.
Seeking to reignite her team's attack, Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby turned to another former Magic player, wing attack Grace Rasmussen, who came on in place of Gina Crampton, but couldn't help affect an immediate turnaround, as England took a four-goal lead into the break, on the back of a 17-9 quarter.
Jury made way for Temalisi Fakahokotau as the third quarter began, and a series of turnovers and some accurate shooting helped the Silver Ferns quickly pull within one, in a game that was becoming increasingly physical, especially when they were on attack.
They finally drew level, 39-39, with just under five minutes remaining in the spell, on the back of a turnover forced by Fakahokotau. Jane Watson then joined the game, coming on at wing defence for Kayla Cullen as the Silver Ferns looked to tighten things up - a change that was reversed to begin the final quarter.
On the back of an 18-13 effort in the third, the Silver Ferns took a one-goal lead into the final spell. There, the two teams went goal for goal, until Chelsea Pitman threw an errant pass, and the resulting turnover allowed the home team to open up a two-goal buffer, which became three when Stacey Francis made the same mistake a couple of minutes later.
From there, the Silver Ferns were able to keep England at bay, and their margin grew to a slightly flattering seven at the final whistle.
With the Taini Jamison Trophy stowed away for another year, they will now turn their focus to the four-test Constellation Cup series against Australia, which begins on October 5 at Spark Arena in Auckland.
Their squad for that series will be named on Friday.
Silver Ferns 62 (Maria Tutaia 41/52, Bailey Mes 21/21) England 55 (Jo Harten 36/40, Helen Housby 19/25)
Q1: 17-13; Q2: 26-30; Q3: 44-43
- Audio courtesy RNZ