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NZ Men step up with classy outing against Silver Ferns

Showcasing their special brand of skills, the NZ Men outclassed the Silver Ferns 60-47 on the second day of the Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North on Thursday.

Played at a quick clip throughout, the NZ Men delivered a powerful second half to shut the Silver Ferns out of the game after a competitive first 30 minutes between the pair.

The Silver Ferns had their moments but were unable to sustain their momentum against the aerial skills and athletic ability in an impressive outing from NZ Men as evidenced by imposing shooter Junior Levi, who showcased his all-round skillset by finishing the game at goalkeeper.

Giving all players opportunities to press their claims ahead of next week’s Cadbury Netball Series against England, there were changes to the Silver Ferns line-up for this match.

After playing for NZA on the opening day, shooter Monica Falkner and midcourters Whitney Souness and Sam Winders came into the Silver Ferns on day two while extensive changes were made throughout the match.

Showing their full repertoire of skills, the NZ Men got away to a flyer. Spectacular ball skills, speed on transition and dominance in the air from their opponents put the Silver Ferns squarely on the back foot through the opening stanza.

Taking time to adjust, the Silver Ferns found the defensive wall of Jaryn Tainui (wing defence), Jake Schuster (goal defence) and Joseph Tukaki (goalkeeper) difficult to breach. At the other end, the razzle dazzle on attack was complimented by the finishing prowess of 2.14m shooter Levi as the NZ Men shot out to a 17-10 lead at the first break.

Teenaged shooter Grace Nweke was injected into the game on the resumption for Maia Wilson, getting her second opportunity in the black dress, while Karin Burger (wing defence) and Sulu Fitzpatrick (goalkeeper) also came off the bench.

Nweke matched Tukaki well for height, giving the Silver Ferns more opportunities under the hoop with the tall shooter up for the challenge. However, the rangy Schuster remained a threat with his ability to snaffle intercepts.

Wing attack Souness revelled in having the taller target of Nweke to aim for while also making a nuisance of herself on defence as the Silver Ferns turned on a competitive and productive second quarter.

Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio found her range to sink a succession of long-range shots to peel back the deficit, the Silver Ferns finding their groove to trim the NZ Men’s lead to 30-25 at the main break.

The Silver Ferns made multiple changes for the third quarter with only Winders (wing defence) remaining on court from the second quarter line-up. The return of influential captain Kruze Tangira, after missing the second quarter, coincided with a big shift in momentum for NZ Men.

The gifted midcourter was in the thick of action while marshalling an explosive lift which pushed the NZ Men into a position of dominance.

Winders had a strong quarter for the Silver Ferns while picking off some timely intercepts but a four-goal deficit quickly turned into a 47-36 lead for the NZ Men at three-quarter time.