Second-half struggles led to the loss of the Silver Ferns in their Wednesday night game against England. Video / Sky Sport
Silver Ferns 45
The Taini Jamison Trophy series came to life after the Roses of England managed to secure a hard-fought victory over the Silver Ferns tonight.
The three-test series will be decisive on Friday night, following New Zealand’s 55-45 defeat in Christchurch to tie the competition.
It was the Roses’ first victory over New Zealand since the January 2019 Quad Series, with a push late in the second half that saw them cross the finish line.
The Ferns were leading by three at halftime before a series of positional changes disrupted their otherwise powerful attacking unit.
Teenage sensation Grace Nweke was among those changes as she made her long-awaited international debut. But the increase seemed a challenge for the generally dominant 19-year-old, who succeeded 16 of 20 attempts with 80% accuracy.
Captain Sulu Fitzpatrick – replacing injured Gina Crampton – was more inclined to blame the cause of the loss on her experienced teammates, saying they didn’t support newbies like Nweke the way they needed them to.
“England worked really hard, they brought energy and they looked like a unit. We were disjointed and we didn’t deal with the new ones who took the pitch,” she said.
“You have to do your job first and we can’t put pressure on these new guys. We have to give them a good ball. It’s not their fault, it’s ours and we have to work as a team, not as individuals. “
It took the Roses a while to settle into the game as a number of turnovers gave the Ferns a chance to get ahead.
Playing her second test in the attack-on-goals bib, Tiana Metuarau had the heavy task of following a dream start on Monday night, but the 20-year-old did not look fazed.
This time around, sharing the shooting circle with experienced Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Metuarau continued to look confident shooting from a distance and dealing with Layla Guscoth’s tough defensive tactics.
Across the field, however, England shooter Eleanor Cardwell looked far from comfortable, having only succeeded in one of four attempts.
Cardwell was head coach Jess Thirlby’s only change after the break with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis coming off the bench. It had an immediate impact as the Roses attacking unit refocused and reduced the Ferns’ small advantage.
They came close to a goal but passed out in the final five minutes before halftime to keep the scoreboard difference at three.
At the start of the third quarter, Nweke was pushed onto the pitch.
She teamed up with Metuarau to form one of the Ferns’ youngest and least experienced shooting duos in an international match. It was a short-lived partnership, however, with Maia Wilson replacing Metuarau in the opening third of the quarter, after the Roses equalized the game at 27.
England continued to capitalize on the Ferns’ suddenly unstable attack to gain the advantage.
The changes in position continued throughout the latter part of the game as the Ferns desperately tried to regain control. But it was too little too late as the score continued to explode – no doubt leaving head coach Dame Noeline Taurua much to assess tomorrow’s day off.
The third and final test is Friday night.
Here’s how the match went: