The world champion Silver Ferns added another trophy to their cabinet after taking out the inaugural Vitality Netball Nations Cup with a hard-fought 67-56 win over Jamaica in the final in London.
With the Silver Ferns, Jamaica, England and South Africa taking part in the new event on the international calendar, the New Zealanders were forced to absorb a committed challenge from the Sunshine Girls in a testing first half before pulling away in the second.Beaten 71-45 by the Silver Ferns in round robin play, it was an improved Jamaica who pushed hard in the final, the New Zealanders needing to dig deep to keep their clean sheet intact.With a reduced squad after injuries to defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and shooter Bailey Mes, Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua used all 10 during the final, adding to the team’s depth while also pushing for the silverware.“You’ve got to give credit to Jamaica. They’re an amazing team and once they get their flow, they’re unstoppable,” she said.“We got a bit of the yips along the way but were able to pull that back in the second half which was really pleasing.”Impressive shooter Maia Wilson was handed her fourth straight start of the tournament, playing her first full game for the Silver Ferns while notching her highest score with 44 goals from 47 attempts and picking up her second player of the match accolade.The Silver Ferns got away to a free-scoring start, wing attack Gina Crampton providing the presence on attack as the New Zealanders skipped out to a 7-1 lead before Jamaica settled into their work. From that point, the match settled into a tight and even tussle.Playmaking goal attack Janice Beckford did a fine job in laying the platform for 1.98m shooter Jhaniele Fowler as Jamaica stayed toe-to-toe with the Silver Ferns.Missing just one goal apiece, Wilson and her captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio helped steer the Silver Ferns to a narrow 16-15 lead at the end of a high-scoring first quarter.The match continued in the same vein on the resumption as the teams went goal-for-goal with neither able to make the key breakthrough.With custodian Jane Watson doing her best to disrupt the Jamaican shooters, it was the introduction of Jodi Ann Ward which paid dividends for Jamaica, the wing defence grabbing timely turnovers to help push her team into the lead for the first time.Speedy young midcourters Whitney Souness (wing attack) and Kimiora Poi (centre) entered the fray late in the piece to help the Silver Ferns ship stay on an even keel when the teams went to the main break all square at 30-all.Showing more urgency on defence combined with the silky skills of the energetic Souness, the Silver Ferns made their move in a dominant third quarter. Where every mistake counted for plenty in such a tight encounter, the New Zealanders pounced on an increasingly rattled Jamaica.Holding their poise and discipline, the Silver Ferns were quick to punish. Wilson, under intense pressure, provided a controlled and unflappable demeanour under the hoop to help push her team out to a six-goal lead.In a telling third stanza, the Silver Ferns made a strong statement to outscore Jamaica 19-11 and take a 49-41 lead into the last break.The towering Fowler, who finished with 46 from 47, always remained a threat but the Silver Ferns ensured her ball supply was restricted during a discipline second half.