Silver Ferns thrash understrength Jamaica after frustrating week

Grace Nweke soars for the ball against Jamaica.

The Silver Ferns have taken out Netball New Zealand's frustrations of the past week against a severely understrength Jamaica with a relentless display across the entire court.

On the back of another strong shooting performance from Grace Nweke [59 from 63] and a defensive blinder from debutant Elle Temu, the Silver Ferns took down Jamaica 70-45 in their first match against the Caribbean outfit since their brutal Birmingham reality check at last month's Commonwealth Games.

Tonight's match was nothing like that semi-final though, starting with the Jamaican roster.

The Sunshine Girls finally took the court this evening after a wild week trying to get to New Zealand which culminated in coach Connie Francis, who is in her late 50s and last played in 2003, coming out of retirement to fill the bench tonight alongside other former Jamaican internationals - a formality at the end of the day with the seven who arrived in Aotearoa yesterday knowing they would play the full 60 minutes.

Francis got to watch her side jump out to an unexpected 2-0 lead to start the match as the Silver Ferns made some silly errors although the advantage, and positive news, was snuffed out pretty quickly after that.

Nweke shook off a couple of early misses to assert her dominance in the shooting circle very early in the Test, using her physicality and size to dominate Jamaican goal keep Abbeygail Linton while captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, back leading the side after her 18-month hiatus, was happy to play a supporting role.

Linton's frustrations started to show as time and time again Maddy Gordon, back in the starting line up at wing attack after her surprise omission from this year's Commonwealth Games, linked up with Nweke with pinpoint lobbed passes that saw her chalk up 12 assists in the first quarter alone.

Maddy Gordon takes control of the ball against Jamaica.

At the other end, Temu didn't take long to find her feet on the international stage as she and Kelly Jury forced multiple turnovers in the opening quarter as well.

By the midway point of the first quarter, it became clear the Kiwis were simply a step ahead of their opponents; their passes crisper, their shooting sharper and their defence fiercer.

The teamwide dominance against a Jamaican side missing players, experience and time to adjust to New Zealand time [they got off a 16-hour flight from the US just yesterday] saw the Silver Ferns head into the first break up 21-10.

Jamaica started the second quarter in more promising fashion, trading goals 7-7 with the Silver Ferns after some firm words from Francis and a positional change getting Linton out of her match-up with Nweke.

However, another Temu intercept sparked another run; New Zealand outscoring the Sunshine Girls 6-1 in under three minutes.

The scoring blitz proved to be the difference of the second quarter as the Silver Ferns went to halftime up 36-20 to the delight of the Auckland crowd.

Coach Dame Noeline Taurua, who said prior to the match her team was ready to play at their best regardless of who they were playing, opted to stay with her starting seven for the opening of the third quarter.

Elle Temu fires off a pass against Jamaica.

"We haven't had the opportunity for a wee while to consolidate some of our combinations so this is an opportunity to do that," Taurua told Sky during the match.

"We've got two matches. I'm not frivolous with putting people out on court - we had to do that during the Commonwealth Games - so I'd like to give some good minutes to everyone out there."

Her players paid back that faith with a strong restart.

A pair of three-goal runs helped the Silver Ferns take control again out of the break as the lead reached 20 goals although errors started to creep into the New Zealand attack, leading to turnovers which Jamaican shooter Shimona Nelson converted at the other end.

That saw Jamaica go on two three-goal runs of their own but with Nweke and Ekenasio flawless from 18 attempts in the third quarter, again the score widened with the Silver Ferns up 54-33 going into the final quarter.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio looks to pass against Jamaica.

Heading into the final 15 minutes, Taurua made three changes to her line up with Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan injected into the attack for Ekenasio and Gordon respectively while Sulu Fitzpatrick took over the GK bib from Jury.

The changes appeared to throw the Silver Ferns off slightly as Jamaica opened with a three-goal run before it was quickly erased by the Kiwi squad.

Selby-Rickit got off to a rocky start with just two of her first five attempts going in although Nweke's rebounding came in handy.

Jamaica finished with some fight in them but again the Silver Ferns outscored the Commonwealth Games silver medallists 15-12 and with it, in almost scripted fashion, Nweke sealed a convincing win with a well-earned final shot of the night.

The visitors won't have long to recover from the 25-goal defeat with the second match of the two-Test series being played tomorrow night in Auckland.

Silver Ferns 70 [Nweke 59/63, Ekenasio 7/7, Selby-Rickit 4/7]

Jamaica 45 [Nelson 36/41, Allison 9/14]

HT: 36-20


More Stories