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Silver Ferns record famous win to take out Cadbury Series

Showing a heap of character, the Silver Ferns rebounded in style to post a pulsating 55-52 win over the NZ Men in the final of the Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North on Saturday.

Beaten by 13 goals in their first match-up two days ago, the Silver Ferns turned the tables to record their first-ever win over the NZ Men with a classy outing in a bruising but entertaining clash.

After being rested yesterday, shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit were back for the Silver Ferns, the pair getting the nod to start the final along with the impressive in-circle defensive pairing of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Jane Watson.

The NZ Men were at full strength with the imposing figure of Junior Levi shoring up the shooting end, the super-talented Kruze Tangira running the midcourt and the dynamic in-circle defensive duo of Jake Schuster and Joseph Tukaki conducting the back end of the court tactics.

Employing short, sharp, flat and fast tactics, the Silver Ferns were all business from the outset. Showing plenty of movement and patience on attack paid dividends, the Silver Ferns breaking the goal-for-goal opening tussle through their slickness on attack and robust defensive efforts.

The pressure produced a rash of errors from NZ Men, the Silver Ferns unflinching as they took a four-goal lead. That forced a change with Nick Grimmer replacing Cameron Powell at wing attack late in the quarter.

Persistent hustle from dogged wing defence Sam Winders mirrored by the tenacity of Fitzpatrick and Watson put more ball in the Silver Ferns hands. Majestic captain Ekenasio led the way with a perfect 10 from 10, helping the Silver Ferns head into the first break with a 16-10 lead.

The Silver Ferns retained the same seven on the resumption while the NZ Men made multiple changes. The intensity lifted several notches as the NZ Men threw everything into a physical and thrilling second stanza.

Maia Wilson took over from Selby-Rickit midway through, the NZ men making several raids as they made inroads into the deficit. The Silver Ferns refused to concede with Watson and Fitzpatrick providing solid resistance.

Late in the piece Claire Kersten took over from Winders while Whitney Souness replaced Gina Crampton, the Silver Ferns keeping the NZ Men at bay when taking a 25-22 lead into the main break.

Tight and tense, there was no let-up in a riveting third stanza when the spoils were shared after momentum swung back and forth.

With the Silver Ferns continuing to execute a patient but exciting brand of netball, the NZ Men had their hands full but showed time and again their ability to score quickly. After starting at wing attack, Cameron proved a solid ally for Levi under the hoop the pair drawing the men level late in the piece.

The Silver Ferns showed their stature by digging deep and refusing to take a backward step. Centre Shannon Saunders had a forceful outing, combining expertly with the creative Souness as the Silver Ferns showed plenty of enterprise on attack.

With Kelly Jury replacing Fitzpatrick, the defensive end remained effective while Wilson was an inspiring figure under the hoop, slotting goals from short and long range to post a 19 from 19 return while Levi was equally efficient with 23 from 24.

Once again, the Silver Ferns fended off the threat of a comeback from NZ Men to keep their noses in front when leading 42-39 at the last turn.

Goalkeeper Timothy Apisai grabbed a couple of timely intercepts to help steer the NZ men to five goals on the trot, levelling the scores with five minutes to go to set up a thrilling run to the line.