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Depth of talent on show as Silver Ferns post win over NZA

Playing their first match in 10 months, the Silver Ferns showcased a mix of combinations while completing a hard-fought 59-44 win over NZA on the opening day of the 2020 Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North on Wednesday.

With spots on the line and cross-squad mixes happening during the series ahead of meeting England next week, there was plenty for all involved to play for. And that showed.

Both teams made multiple changes throughout, the Silver Ferns overcoming a slow start to pull away after delivering a strong second half. Also, in evidence was the depth of talent at the top level with all players getting court time to press their claims. 

With goal attack Monica Falkner impressing in her first top-level match after 15 months out with a serious knee injury, NZA made the early running. Keeping the Silver Ferns honest throughout the opening stanza, NZA went goal-for-goal with their opposites.

Falkner received good service from pivot Whitney Souness, the Silver Ferns taking time to settle on attack as NZA secured extra ball through the hustle of their defenders.

The Silver Ferns found their feet late in the piece to nudge into a 13-12 lead at the first break.

There were plenty of changes on the resumption, teenaged shooting sensation Grace Nweke getting her first opportunity in the black dress after replacing Maia Wilson. Shannon Saunders took over from Kimiora Poi at centre while Sulu Fitzpatrick came on for Jane Watson at goalkeeper.

For NZA, Elle Bird took over at goal shoot for Aliyah Dunn but it was the Silver Ferns who got the better traction through an improved second stanza.

Breaking the goal-for-goal arm wrestle was helped by the injection of Nweke and Fitzpatrick at either end of the court. The wily Fitzpatrick was instrumental in turning ball over at the defensive end while a nervous Nweke, once settled, scored a quick-fire 13/16 during the 15 minutes.

Finding more flow and accuracy on attack, the Silver Ferns increased their buffer to a 30-25 lead at the main break.

There was more mixing and matching for both teams in the third quarter, the Silver Ferns getting the jump to increase their lead while restricting NZA’s scoring opportunities.

Wilson, Poi and Watson (goal defence) returned for the Silver Ferns while Te Paea Selby-Rickit (goal attack) got her first minutes of the match. For NZA, Jamie Hume (goal attack), Maddy Gordon (wing attack) and Kate Heffernan (wing defence) came off the bench.

Fitzpatrick and Watson proved a menacing defensive combination for the Silver Ferns, putting the brakes on any thoughts of a NZA comeback while Wilson was rock solid in the shooting circle. At the other end of the court, Bird was also productive when given the opportunity.

With more ball at their disposal, the Silver Ferns took a handy 46-35 lead into the last turn.

There was no let-up in the run home, the tall figure of Kelly Jury making the most of her first opportunity in the black dress for two years with a forceful contribution from goalkeeper.