Silver Ferns open with seamless win over Malawi
A composed and consistent Silver Ferns opened their Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 campaign with a satisfying 64-45 win over Malawi in Liverpool on Friday.
Coach Noeline Taurua was able to give 11 of her 12 players court time during a match in which the women in black dominated after gaining the upper hand midway through the first term.
With first game nerves out of the way and the opportunity to keep building on their links, the Silver Ferns were also able to put the shock four-goal loss to Malawi at last year’s Commonwealth Games firmly behind them.
Player of the match, Maria Folau was at her scintillating best in posting 38 goals from 42 attempts while fellow shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio was equally dynamic in providing a strong support hand and unnerving accuracy.
“They were no easy-beats the last time we played them and it’s just great to get our first win of this World Cup,” Folau said.
“A lot of us were a bit anxious coming into this game but I’m super proud of our processes and structures which I felt we delivered.
“I feel like we’ve taken another step forward and we’re now looking forward to our next game. It’s one game at a time and just making sure that we play clinical netball and netball that we’re proud of.”
A strong Silver Ferns starting combination spearheaded by the experienced Folau (goal shoot), Laura Langman (centre) and Casey Kopua (goal defence), all lining up in their fourth World Cup, helped the New Zealanders get away to a safe and steady start.
Masters of retaining possession, Malawi showed all their renowned patience as they matched the Silver Ferns through the opening exchanges.
Folau and her Malawi counterpart Joyce Mvula were a model of consistency under their respective hoops as the pair dominated the scoring stakes. Finding their feet late in the piece, the Silver Ferns overcame a tight start with a late burst to push out to a 17-11 buffer at the first break.
In the groove quickly on the resumption with their flow and rhythm, the Silver Ferns pocketed the first five goals to take control of proceedings.
Defenders Jane Watson and Kopua were a constant thorn for the Malawi shooters, the pair picking off a string of turnover opportunities to keep their opponents to just six goals for the stanza.
With the Silver Ferns showing passages of real fluency on attack, Ekenasio, featuring in her first World Cup, became more of a presence in her combination with Folau. With more ball in their hands, the shooters helped the Silver Ferns skip out to a commanding 32-17 lead at the main break.
With Phoenix Karaka replacing Karin Burger at wing defence and Shannon Saunders taking over from Gina Crampton at wing attack, the third quarter followed a similar path to the first.
Malawi showed admirable resistance through the shooting skills of Mvula and the defensive efforts of Towera Vinkhumbo and Grace Mwafulirwa to run toe-to-toe with the Silver Ferns before the New Zealanders took full advantage of their opponent’s lapses.
Gaining the upper hand, with Folau and Ekenasio seamless with their accuracy on shot, the Silver Ferns hit the last break with a dominant 49-30 lead.
Shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit and defender Katrina Rore completed the changes for the Silver Ferns for the run home, Rore making a positive return after a calf injury ruled her out of the Cadbury Netball Series earlier this month with two intercepts in a drawn last quarter.
In a quick turnaround, the Silver Ferns will meet Barbados in their second pool match at 10pm Saturday night (NZT).