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Silver Ferns undone by forceful England comeback

The Silver Ferns were unable to weather a storming second half comeback as the England Roses clinched the Cadbury Netball Series with an impressive 49-45 win in the deciding third Test in Christchurch on Friday.

Handily-placed with a 10-goal advantage at halftime, the Silver Ferns copped a high-energy response from the Roses in the second half, the Commonwealth Games champions showing their experience and depth to keep pushing for better.

Evergreen midcourter Serena Guthrie and shooting substitute Eleanor Cardwell were impressive figures in England’s second half resurgence. In a last throw of the dice, defender Georgia Tong became Silver Fern #180 when she made a late entry to the game with Peta Toeava as the home side strove to keep their hands on the Taini Jamison Trophy.  

Without their newly-appointed leaders, the Silver Ferns faced a test of character and resilience ahead of the match when captain Gina Crampton was ruled out along with rising young shooter Tiana Metuarau, both suffering adductor strains.

That was compounded when vice-captain Sulu Fitzpatrick was also forced out after hyperextending her knee during training. Wing defence Samantha Winders assumed the captaincy duties while Te Paea Selby-Rickit got her first opportunity to line up at goal attack in this series with a new wave of talent taking their places on the bench.

After their strong showing in the second test, England largely stuck with their successful formula, Beth Cobden (wing defence) and influential goal attack Sophie Drakeford-Lewis getting starting opportunities after previously coming off the bench.

The opening stanza couldn’t have been tighter as both sides jockeyed for some ascendancy. England got the decisive start they were looking for with great accuracy and finishing on attack to skip out to a three-goal advantage before the Silver Ferns found their groove.

Selby-Rickit was prominent early, helping set up good options into the circle in tandem with Shannon Saunders while Maia Wilson’s movement in the circle was impressive.

Both sides had turns in the lead but the 12-all score-line at the first break was indicative of the close nature of the contest.

The Silver Ferns switched up another gear on the resumption to deliver an emphatic second stanza with all areas of the court playing their parts.

The in-circle defensive pairing of Kelly Jury and Karin Burger, firstly, pulled the shutters down on dominant England shooter George Fisher, picking off an increasing amount of turnover ball which was converted at the other end.

Under constant pressure from the England defenders, Selby-Rickit and Wilson continued to play the percentages, excelling with their shooter-to-shooter interplay. Wilson was in commanding form in converting her opportunities while Selby-Rickit proved good value as the provider.

England were fast and clinical at times on transition but with their scoring opportunities drying up, shooter Drakeford-Lewis and defender Layla Guscoth were replaced with five minutes to go by Eleanor Cardwell and Francesca Williams, respectively.

Five straight goals provided the impetus for the Silver Ferns to surge out to a 26-16 lead at the main break after reducing the Roses to just four goals during a rampant second quarter.

The Silver Ferns were kept busy during the third stanza with a resurgent Roses applying a torrid onslaught to reverse the respective fortunes. With Fisher on the bench, Cardwell (13 from 13) and Drakeford-Lewis were provided plenty of opportunities under the hoop as England’s attacking unit clicked up a notch.

At the other end, the England defenders put the squeeze on the Silver Ferns attacking line, the home side struggling for large parts to thread the ball through. Midcourt dynamo Kimiora Poi replaced Claire Kersten midway through, the Silver Ferns left with a fight on their hands after England trimmed their lead to 36-32 at the last break.