The world champion Silver Ferns got away to an impressive start in their first outing of the year, posting a 64-48 win over England in the inaugural Vitality Netball Nations Cup in Nottingham on Monday.
At the start of a new era, Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua took the opportunity to test a number of combinations throughout the opening match with all players getting a run during the game.
Missing several key players of recent years, the Silver Ferns delivered their highest score against England since 2016, the shooting end being a particular standout with Maia Wilson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and player of the match Bailey Mes, all producing high-quality performances.
“I’m really happy with the result, the performance overall, the standard that we put out there and the transition of the new players,” Taurua said.
“It was a great start and getting people out on court where a few have been sitting on the side-lines for a very long time will give us confidence. We’ll recover well knowing it’s a fast back-up on Wednesday (against Jamaica at 6.30am on Thursday, NZT).”
After a relatively even first half, the Silver Ferns continued to build on their momentum, effectively getting the better of England with a productive second half. There was plenty of player movement from both sides but in their first match, it was the Silver Ferns who slipped more seamlessly into their differing combinations.
Wilson was given the first crack in a new-look shooting end under the hoop while the solid pairing of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton shored up the midcourter in the starting line-up.
With changes across both teams since their last meeting in the semi-finals during the Silver Ferns march to the world title in July last year, there was a settling period for both before the New Zealanders gained a slight edge.
Wilson and Ekenasio made an impressive opening, recording a perfect start with a 100 percent success rate under the hoop to lead the Silver Ferns to a 15-11 lead at the first break.
With Selby-Rickit (goal shoot) and Whitney Souness (wing attack) being introduced on the resumption and a concerted effort from the defensive end, the Silver Ferns took a strong grip on proceedings to build an eight-goal buffer.
The women in black punished anything loose from their opponents, forcing a change with George Fisher taking over the goal shooter’s role for England which proved inspired.
After a slow start to the quarter, England finished with a rush to chip away, leaving the Silver Ferns with a 28-25 lead at the main break.
England challenged strongly on the resumption with midcourters Jade Clarke and Nat Haythornthwaite delivering perfect ball into the hands of accurate shooter Fisher before the Silver Ferns clicked up a gear.
Weathering the storm, the Silver Ferns produced a clinical finish to the third stanza, the slick combination between Mes and Wilson under the hoop helping take the sting out of England. Combined with the defensive disruption provided by Karin Burger, Phoenix Karaka and Jane Watson, the Silver Ferns piled on the pressure to close out the last break with a handy 48-38 lead.