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Jamaica fend off gallant Silver Ferns to win Taini Jamison Trophy

The Jamaica Sunshine Girls have reached new heights and sounded a warning ahead of the Commonwealth Games after securing the Taini Jamison Trophy with a 59-53 win over the Silver Ferns on Saturday.

Following on from their eight-goal win in round robin play, Jamaica repeated the effort in the final to post back-to-back wins against the Silver Ferns for the first time in their history.

There were plenty of positives for the Silver Ferns who, time and again, came within a whisker with spirited fightbacks, just coming up short in nailing the crucial moments against a well-drilled and impressive Jamaica.

With little separating the teams across all facets, it was the first quarter where Jamaica got the jump, the following three stanzas proving as close as it gets and ultimately it was shooting percentages that proved the difference.

Jamaica relied on the same seven throughout the match while the Silver Ferns used 10 players as they continued to concentrate on different combinations in their build towards the Games. 

There was plenty of purposeful intent from both teams in the early exchanges as the Silver Ferns opted to start with the little-tried shooting partnership of Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes.

Four unanswered goals soon had Jamaica with their noses in front, 1.98m shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid having few problems in sinking any ball that came her way. At the other end, the Silver Ferns pairing were under all sorts of pressure from the combined defensive menace of Stacian Facey and Shamera Sterling.

Silver Ferns vice-captain Maria Foloau was quickly injected into the fray, her connection with Grace Kara having immediate effect as the Silver Ferns clambered back into the game when trailing 13-9 at the first break.

Hard-working captain Katrina Grant and her defensive partner Kelly Jury, despite giving away 6cm to Fowler-Reid, provided turnover opportunities while Ekenasio found her feet, producing good timing and accuracy rates to keep the Silver Ferns well in the hunt.

Jamaica impressed with their composure, patience and aerial skills, ending the stanza with a four-goal flourish to maintain their advantage when leading 28-23 at the main break.

The game lifted to another level in a thrilling and evenly contested third stanza. With Te Paea Selby-Rickit taking over from Ekenasio, the Silver Ferns continued to increase their accuracy on attack with slick, quick interplay.

The home team made some impressive inroads, Grant and Jury picking off valuable turnover ball while the introduction of athletic defender Fakahokotau added another spark as the home team moved within two.

Jamaica held their nerve in an exciting late rally, keeping the Silver Ferns at arms-length and regaining their edge when taking a 44-39 lead into the last break.

Improving with each game, the Malawi Queens secured third place with a convincing 78-46 win over the Fiji Pearls.

The world No 6-ranked team proved too much of a hurdle for the 12th-ranked Fiji. With an abundance of ball, shooters Mwai Kumwenda, Sindi Simtowe and Jane Chimalrio were all a model of consistency and accuracy under the hoop on the back of an influential contribution from livewire midcourter Takondwa Lwazi.

A rebuilding Fiji showed the benefit of having a run of matches against top-quality opposition with teenaged shooter Laisani Waqa and powerful goalkeeper Alisi Nagiri providing an exciting glimpse of the future prospects for the Pearls.

The Silver Ferns leave for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games on Friday (March 30) and play their first pool match against Uganda on April 5.