The New Zealand netball team ended a disappointing Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign with a 60-55 loss to Jamaica in the bronze medal match on Sunday.
There was little between the teams in a closely-fought contest, punctuated by numerous momentum swings, but it was Jamaica who held a slight edge for large chunks of the match.
The New Zealanders left everything on the court, competing valiantly and threatening time and again with stirring comeback efforts but who were ultimately left to rue the inability to make the most of their opportunities.
With shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit scratched before the start of the match after being laid low by a virus, New Zealand’s resources were stretched.
Bailey Mes got the start at goal shoot along with Shannon Francois at centre and Samantha Sinclair, wing defence.
After an even start, the plan of getting as much ball into the hands of 1.96m shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid paid dividends in helping Jamaica forge a buffer through the first quarter.
Captain Katrina Grant was a busy contributor for New Zealand while shooter Maria Folau continued her impressive form and high work rate in this tournament.
An ankle injury forced energetic New Zealand defender Temalisi Fakahokotau off the court just before the first break with Jamaica taking a 15-11 lead.
The women in black made a telling start on the resumption, forcing turnovers to edge within two. Jamaica absorbed the pressure before New Zealand continued to assert a lift in their defensive intent with plenty of reward. Returning to the action, Fakahokotau had an immediate impact to get the better of Fowler-Reid.
The extra ball provided more flow on attack as Folau and Mes enjoyed the extra space while helping New Zealand level the scores.
Fowler-Reid was replaced by the equally imposing figure of Romelda Aiken, the long and gruelling tournament taking its toll as Francois departed the court with injury to be replaced by Claire Kersten.
Having the better of the second stanza, New Zealand narrowed Jamaica’s lead to 29-27 at the main break.
New Zealand started the third term with a hiss and roar, producing a flurry of turnovers to take the lead within three minutes of the restart and with it providing positive signs.
Kersten provided plenty of hustle to keep the pressure on but Jamaica quickly found their way back into the lead, unobtrusive goal attack Shanice Beckford and agile defender Sterling playing prominent roles. Growing in confidence, the Caribbean team delivered a strong late burst to hit the last break with a 46-39 lead.
A Gutsy performance from both sides