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.”
The first ever Test meeting between the sides pitted Group B winners New Zealand against Zimbabwe who finished as runners-up in Group A after a nail-biting 51-49 victory over Northern Ireland yesterday afternoon.
Zimbabwe, who handed a tournament debut to Adelaide Muskwe, once again brought their flair and enthusiasm to the M&S Bank Arena as the Gems sang and danced their way onto court, delivering the vibrancy that has captured so many hearts in the tournament so far.
The Gems translated their pre-game energy into the early stages of the contest as they matched New Zealand, and the score was tied at 5-5 after four minutes, as the Gems’ Pauline Jani and Sharon Bwanali combined to convert their first five goal attempts.
The back-and-forth contest continued as both sides traded goals, but with the scores tied at 8-8, the Silver Ferns scored eight of the next nine goals to build a seven-goal advantage as Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio began to find their shooting range.
Despite Zimbabwe’s Jani and Bwanali shooting a perfect ten from ten in goal attempts, scoring opportunities decreased as the quarter went on as New Zealand stepped up their defence. By the end of the quarter, the Silver Ferns had increased their lead to 21-10.
As has been the case throughout the entire tournament, New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua continued to tinker with her attacking combinations as Bailey Mes entered the game to partner Folau. Together, they scored seven goals in the opening stages of the second quarter to build the Silver Ferns’ lead.
Offensively, Zimbabwe continued to stutter, struggling to create many scoring opportunities. When they did, however, Jani – who finished the half with her 100% record in tact – and Ursula Ndlovu kept the scoreboard ticking over.
At the other end, New Zealand continued to dominate the Zimbabwe defence as Mes and Folau scored 19 of their 22 goal attempts to extend their team’s lead to 40-18 at half time.
Both sides made attacking changes to begin the third quarter as Ta Paea Selby-Rickit replaced Mes for New Zealand and Joice Takaidza, the top goalscorer in the competition entering stage two, came on for Jani for the Gems. Both players converted their opening goal attempt.
New Zealand continued to capitalise on any slight Zimbabwe error and the Silver Ferns were clinical in their attacking play as both Selby-Rickit and Folau shot at 100% before Folau was replaced by Ekenasio.
Taking a 59-26 lead into the fourth quarter, New Zealand continued to control proceedings and despite Sharleen Makusha keeping the Zimbabwe score moving, the Silver Ferns were never in any trouble as Selby-Rickit and Ekenasio shot a combined 95% in the final period.
The victory for New Zealand takes them to eight points as they look to secure their place in the top two of Group F and advance to the semi-finals. Zimbabwe will be determined to get back to winning ways when they take on Barbados in their next game.
New Zealand captain Laura Langman said:
“It wasn’t too bad. I thought it was great to see us weather the storm at the start and then get into our business towards the middle to later end of the first quarter. I thought it (the performance) was pretty good to be fair.”
Zimbabwe’s Pauline Jani said:
“It was a nice experience to play against New Zealand. We learned a lot, because these girls are good. We are ranked 13 in the world, so we learned a lot from New Zealand.”
The Silver Ferns seemed determined to send out a message to the rest of their rivals as they recorded their largest margin of victory so far in the competition and maintained their 100% record.
The match was the first time the two teams had met in the Netball World Cup since 1975 when New Zealand claimed victory, and they were heavy favourites once again, heading into the contest with Singapore still searching for their first win.
After their impressive 78-25 win over Barbados yesterday, the Silver Ferns continued from where they had left off as they raced into a 9-0 lead with only five minutes played.
Singapore finally netted their first goal of the game moments later, but they found it tough against a well-organised New Zealand defence. When Singapore did get shooting opportunities, they struggled to convert, making just five of their ten goal attempts.
The Silver Ferns continued to build their lead as Maria Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who made her first start of the tournament, combined to score 20 of their 21 goal attempts as the first quarter finished 20-5 to New Zealand.
The second quarter began in a similar pattern to the first as New Zealand racked up four unanswered goals before Charmaine Soh scored Singapore’s first goal of the period.
That proved to be their only goal for the next eight minutes as they struggled to create opportunities against New Zealand’s relentless defence and the Silver Ferns capitalised as they scored 14 in a row before Soh ended the drought for Singapore.
Led by Maria Folau’s elite shooting performance as she made 27 of her 28 first half goal attempts, New Zealand led 43-8 at half time, winning the quarter 23-3.
The third quarter began as a much more even contest with both sides converting their goal attempts. Pei Shan Lee and Kai Wei Toh replaced Soh and Xinyi Tan for Singapore which gave them an initial attacking boost.
Singapore still struggled to deal with New Zealand’s attack, however, and their swift passing and movement continued to create opportunities as Selby-Rickit and Ameliaranne Ekenasio shot 91% to extend their lead to 63-14.
In the fourth quarter Singapore enjoyed their best attacking period scoring seven goals but they could do nothing to halt New Zealand who finished the game in style, winning the quarter 26-7. Selby-Rickit continued her efficient shooting to finish the game having made 36 of her 38 goal attempts.
The result means that New Zealand advance – with six points – into Group F in Preliminaries Stage Two, whilst Singapore will be hoping to secure their first victory of the tournament as they move into Group E.
New Zealand goal keeper Casey Kopua said:
“It was another opportunity to get out on court and fine tune the gameplan but also to be able to have a bit of fun. It’s important for us to move forward every day and take what we can from each game into the next one.
“In the game we had a lot of structures that we were trying to work on no matter what was happening, so that was good to work on and play the gameplan that we want to play.”
The Silver Ferns had won all seven of the previous World Cup contests between the sides and after a competitive first quarter, they began to show their quality and ultimately ran out clear winners.
After a superb win against Singapore yesterday, Barbados entered the game with confidence but as the tie wore on, they were out classed by Noeline Taurua’s ruthless side.
It was a commanding start from New Zealand as they scored the opening four points of the game, but Barbados responded and closed the deficit to 5-3.
Barbados found it tough to deal with the quick passing and movement of New Zealand during the opening exchanges, but they settled and managed to remain in touching distance due to the excellent shooting of Shonica Wharton and Sheniqua Thomas who scored nine of their ten goal attempts.
New Zealand took a 16-9 advantage into the second quarter and they immediately began to build on their lead, extending it to 21 goals by the middle of the quarter.
The Gems struggled to put together any effective offensive play as they were limited to just one goal attempt in the first ten minutes of the quarter and despite a late flurry of goals, they were outscored by 26-5.
Led by some flawless shooting from Bailey Mes, who scored all 14 of her goal attempts in the quarter, and backed up by substitute Maria Folau’s 92% shooting, New Zealand took a 42-14 lead into half time.
The Silver Ferns kept their foot firmly on the pedal after the interval and continued to build their advantage as Te Paea Selby-Rickit replaced Folau and impressed, converting all 12 of her goal attempts.
Wharton continued to impress for Barbados with her shooting range and touch, but the Gems again found it tough to create scoring opportunities consistently, scoring six goals in the quarter as New Zealand increased their lead to 61-20.
The opening stages of the fourth quarter were much more even, as both sides traded scores before the Silver Ferns regained control of the contest.
The last time the two sides met in the Netball World Cup – in 2015 – New Zealand were 73-28 winners, and the scoreline began to head in a similar direction as the Silver Ferns confidently played out the remaining minutes to outscore Barbados 17-5 in the final quarter and take the victory.
Ultimately New Zealand proved to be too strong for Barbados and they will look to cement their place at the top of Group B when they face Singapore tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Gems will hope to return to winning ways when they take on Malawi in their final group game.
New Zealand’s Bailey Mes said:
“We’re just trying to be a little bit better every day and take whatever we can from one day to the next. Personally, I didn’t get on court yesterday so it was really good to get out there.”
Barbados goal shooter, Shonica Wharton, said:
“I think we performed well. We continued fighting even though we didn’t win, and I thought that we had a good team spirit and we performed all the way until the end. They were good at basically everything, but we can learn to be more confident and continue to keep pushing for more.”
The game provided plenty of excitement for the crowd inside the M&S Bank Arena to enjoy, with New Zealand supporters particularly vocal in the top tier of the Court One stand.
They were able to see their team avenge the shock defeat they suffered at the Commonwealth Games at the hands of Malawi by getting their World Cup campaign off to a winning start.
The first quarter was a closely-fought contest, with New Zealand edging in front by a scoreline of 17-11 as the whistle blew, largely thanks to the prolific goal shooter Maria Folau.
It was New Zealand who scored the first goal of the game – and the tournament – before Malawi scored four times without reply to bring themselves back into contention. By the end of the first quarter, however, New Zealand had begun to show signs of exerting their dominance on the game.
That position of strength was only increased in the second quarter, as they headed into the halfway point in the match leading by a score of 32-17.
New Zealand goal shooter Folau and goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio, the 6’1” 28-year-old, linked up well, while Malawi struggled at times to break down the effective defensive set-up of their opponents.
As umpire Joshua Bowring got the penultimate quarter underway, New Zealand were well in control of the game and they sensibly pressed on, using the momentum gathered during the first half an hour.
Malawi pulled two goals back in quick succession through Sindi Simtowe early in the third quarter before Folau got her side back on track. Malawi’s urgency in possession increased, but with three quarters of the game gone, New Zealand led 49-30.
The final 15 minutes saw New Zealand see the game out, but not without Malawi putting up a fight. The African side notched 15 goals in the final quarter, although New Zealand ran out comfortable victors overall.
New Zealand will hope to continue their good form when they face Barbados tomorrow, while Malawi will look to bounce back in the same session in their fixture against Singapore.
New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua said:
“It’s great to get out there on court. Malawi is always a bogey team for us, and I thought they were really good today as well. They play a very unorthodox style, so it’s quite difficult to get on top of, but overall it’s a start for us, and I know the areas that we need to build on.”