Commonwealth Games warm-up matches gives Silver Ferns glimpse of Jamaica

Commonwealth Games warm-up matches gives Silver Ferns glimpse of Jamaica

At National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham: England 54 (Eleanor Cardwell: 26/29, Helen Housby: 23/26, Jo Harten: 5/6) New Zealand 44 (Grace Nweke: 23/29, Maia Wilson: 8/9, Te Paea Selby-Rickit: 13/13) 1Q: 8-15, HT: 25-24, 3Q: 39-33.

The Silver Ferns got an early taste of what they could expect from Jamaica at their Commonwealth Games warm-up tournament in Auckland.

New Zealand will take on the Sunshine Girls in the first semifinal in Birmingham (Saturday 8pm NZ time) after losing 54-44 to gold medal favorites England on Friday.

That result saw the Ferns finish second in the pool, setting up a surprise semifinal clash with Jamaica, who stunned Australia 57-55 to top group A. England and Australia will meet in a rematch of the 2018 gold medal match, in what should be a blockbuster in the other semifinal.

Jamaica have fond recent memories against the Ferns at the Commonwealth Games. They knocked over New Zealand 60-55 in the bronze medal match at the 2018 Games on the Gold Coast, in what proved the final game for former coach Janine Southby.

The Sunshine Girls will be full of confidence for the semifinal after their stunning fourth quarter comeback to beat Australia, outscoring them 17-9.

Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua believed their Cadbury Series warm-up games in Auckland against the New Zealand men and mixed invitational side had given them a glimpse of the Jamaican playing style.

Jamaica are blessed with height in their attacking and defensive ends and can score quickly through standout goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler, who was outstanding during her time at the Southern Steel in New Zealand. Captain Fowler converted 47 from 50 in the famous win over Australia.

“I think playing in the Cadbury Series against the men, NZ A and mixed actually sets us up nicely for this [against Jamaica],” Taurua said.

New Zealand wing defense Kayla Johnson tries to find a way through the England defence.

Matthew Impey/Photosport

New Zealand wing defense Kayla Johnson tries to find a way through the England defence.

“That was a stepping stone for all the weeks after then and probably seeing the shift and the growth, not only in individuals and also the team is a testament to what happened in Cadbury Series.”

Taurua was under no illusion about the challenge Jamaica presented. On their day, the Sunshine Girls were capable of beating anyone in world netball, as they demonstrated against Australia.

This was one of the strongest Jamaican sides in history and Taurua said the Ferns would have to be at their best to beat them and make the gold medal match.

Jamaica are all smiles after their upset victory over Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Jamaica are all smiles after their upset victory over Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

“I always knew they were going to be good. Their bookends are amazing, obviously. You’ve got the shooting prowess of Jhaniele [Fowler] and you’ve got your Shamera’s [Sterling] and every other person defensively who’s strong, so they will have got a lot of confidence [beating Australia] and rightly so once again.”

Taurua was frustrated with the way the Ferns finished against a vastly experienced England side, who look favorites to make it back-to-back gold in Birmingham.

The Ferns had to deal with a raucous home crowd at the National Exhibition Centre. New Zealand players donned headphones at training with the crowd noise playing to try and replicate it.

After trailing by six goals (39-33) at three-quarter time, the Ferns were in the contest with seven minutes to play. They cut England’s lead to five (43-38) and had possession, but captain Gina Crampton was whistled for held ball.

Silver Ferns goal attack Maia Wilson looks to make a pass against England.

Matthew Impey/Photosport

Silver Ferns goal attack Maia Wilson looks to make a pass against England.

England made New Zealand pay, scoring from the mistake and finished strongly to push their advantage out to 10 goals.

“Pity on that last five minutes. I thought there was a bit of fight in us and we were holding in there as well and they just blew it out to take it to a 10-goal deficit, so that’s probably the most disappointing thing.”

The Ferns were left to lament sloppy starts to both the first and third quarters. They were slow to get into the game with England making a fast start and taking a 15-8 lead into the first quarter break.

Down 25-24 at halftime, the Ferns also struggled to start the second half with England going on an 8-2 run to take control early in the third quarter.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit was one of New Zealand’s best, impressing at goal attack by replacing Maia Wilson after the opening 15 minutes. Kate Heffernan was also injected into the game to start the second quarter at wing defense in place of Kayla Johnson. She was able to slow the supply of ball into the England shooters and pick up some defensive gains.

Taurua stressed Jamaica’s victory over Australia showed how tight it was at the top in international netball – which she believed was much-needed for the sport.

“The most exciting thing is any team can beat anybody on a given day and I think that top four is massive for all of us, so this [semifinal] game is massive for everybody. It’s not a home and hosed you’re going to go through.”

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