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16 July 2019 | Uncategorized

Relentless Silver Ferns continue serene progress

New Zealand are all-but confirmed as Vitality Netball World Cup semi-finalists, after they put in another dominant performance to beat Northern Ireland.

The Silver Ferns built on their momentum from earlier on in the tournament to register a 77-28 win, although Dan Ryan’s Northern Ireland will also be able to take plenty of positives from a strong finish to the game.

Northern Ireland, off the back of two narrow defeats in their last two games, brought Shaunagh Craig back in at goal shooter, replacing Noleen Armstrong from the start.

Their task was a tall one from the outset – the Silver Ferns had won all six previous World Cup meetings between the teams, one of those meetings delivering what remains the biggest ever win in World Cup history – 112-4, in Eastbourne in 1963.

The gap is far narrower between the modern-day sides, but the as-yet unbeaten Silver Ferns made a rapid start, capitalising on early Northern Ireland errors to race into a 6-0 lead.

Emma Magee put the Warriors on the board after five minutes, and that triggered an improved period for Dan Ryan’s side, who traded goals with the Kiwis over the next few minutes.

Craig got her first goal eight minutes in, and subsequently delighted the Northern Irish fans in the crowd with a wonderful piece of handling to gather in a ball which looked destined to go out of play, before scoring.

New Zealand’s strength at both ends of the court was evident though, and they turned possession over on numerous occasions to push their lead out as the quarter progressed, finishing the first 15 minutes 22-7 ahead.

They followed that up by again applying early pressure in the second quarter with – just as in the first – Northern Ireland taking five minutes to add to their score.

By then, the relentless Silver Fern machine had well and truly clicked into gear, with the superb defensive work of Jane Watson and Casey Kopua and one particular moment of high-quality handling between Laura Langman and Ameliaranne Ekenasio underlining the magnitude of the Warriors’ task.

New Zealand were getting the ball to their shooters with relative ease, and pressed on ruthlessly as the quarter progressed, stretching their lead out to 44-11 at half time.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua made a raft of changes at the break, and Northern Ireland capitalised on a loss of fluidity to start the third quarter in a much better fashion.

In what was a scrappy quarter in general, good work from substitute Bailey Mes brought up the New Zealand half century as the lead continued to go out, but the Northern Ireland defenders were having more success, narrowing the gap in the scoring rate and keeping their opponents to just 17 in the quarter, as opposed to the 22 they managed in each of the opening two.

However, a typical moment of quality from Maria Folau wasn’t far away, and she ended the quarter with a wonderful shot from range to extend the Kiwis’ advantage to 61-17.

Despite more changes, New Zealand made a far smoother start to the final quarter, again stepping up defensively to claim numerous turnovers and move through the gears again as they pushed their lead out.

To their immense credit though, Northern Ireland produced by far their best quarter of the game, with one particularly flowing move finished off by Ciara Crosbie highlighting the quality they too possess in their ranks.

New Zealand were simply a class above, though, and Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit continued to add to the scoreline as Taurua took the opportunity to try various combinations all over the court as the Silver Ferns’ potential group decider with Australia on Thursday comes into view.

Northern Ireland’s Ciara Crosbie said:

“I think whenever we go up against the world’s best, as New Zealand are, we can be a bit star-struck to start off with, but once we get ourselves into it like today we know we can give any team a good run.”