England crush Silver Ferns to set up decider

New Zealand's Tiana Metuarau is challenged by Geva Mentor of England on Wednesday. KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY IMAGES

England have set up a Taini Jamison Trophy series decider after a crucial game two victory over the Silver Ferns.

A second half surge powered the Roses to an emphatic 55-45 win on Wednesday at Christchurch Arena, setting up a winner-takes-all game three on Friday at the same venue.

This was a timely win for England, who had lost six straight games against the Ferns with their last win coming in January 2019.

It was a dominant second half performance from the Roses, who took advantage of Silver Fern turnovers and made them pay through Southern Steel shooting standout George Fisher, who finished with 45/47.

England outscored the Ferns 34-21 in the second half to take control of the contest.

Leading 24-21 at halftime, Grace Nweke became Silver Fern No.179 with the highly-rated 19-year-old shooter replacing Te Paea Selby-Rickit.

Nweke was brilliant for the title-winning Mystics this season and went straight from five weeks in level 4 lockdown in Auckland to a debut appearance in the black dress. Nweke shot 16/20 in her 30 minutes on debut.

Maia Wilson, usually a goal shoot, was used at goal attack alongside Nweke in the second half, a move Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua hinted at leading into the series.

Her key feeder at the Mystics’ Peta Toeava was also introduced at wing attack, playing her first test for New Zealand since debuting in September 2018 against England. Toeava had also come from lockdown life in Auckland, one of four Auckland-based Ferns to be granted a government exemption to travel last week.

A 6-3 start to the second half allowed England to draw level at 27-27 early in the third quarter with Fisher busy in the Roses’ shooting circle.

England feasted off Silver Ferns’ mistakes with veteran centre Jade Clarke adding spark in the middle after taking the court in the second quarter.

The Silver Ferns were dealt a blow for game two with new captain and wing attack Gina Crampton sitting out as a precaution with a hip adductor strain.

Vastly experienced midcourter Shannon Saunders replaced Crampton at wing attack, alongside Claire Kersten and Sam Winders in the midcourt.

Taurua mixed around her shooting end, handing an opportunity to Selby-Rickit at goal shoot in place of Wilson. Tiana Metuarau, who had a dream debut in game one, started at goal attack. Metuarau was the only Ferns’ starter from game one to wear the same bib to begin the second test.

Sulu Fitzpatrick captained the Ferns for the first time in Crampton’s absence, lining up next to Kelly Jury in the defensive end.

It was a scrappy start with ball being turned over and both teams slow to get into their rhythm with new combinations.

Taurua and English opposite Jess Thirlby would have been livid with the amount of ball coughed up in the first quarter with neither side able to get into their groove in a sloppy first 15 minutes.

England committed nine turnovers in the first quarter, while the Ferns weren’t much better with eight.

New Zealand took a 10-7 lead into the first quarter break with the Roses struggling to get the ball safely into their shooters, who had 11 attempts.

The Roses produced greater accuracy in the second quarter and made a bright beginning, pulling to within one goal of the Ferns (15-14) midway through the term.

Led by strong defence through court, New Zealand were able to take advantage from turnover ball and build a 22-17 lead late in the first half.

Metuarau picked right up from her debut on Monday, converting nine of her 10 attempts in the first half, teaming up effectively with Selby-Rickit.

The third quarter was all England, who delivered their best netball of the series and showed slick connections on attack to take a 37-34 advantage into the last quarter.

Playing with confidence at both ends of the court, England opened up a six goal buffer (46-40) with eight minutes left, leaving the Ferns with tough deficit to peg back.

Game three is on Friday night (7.30pm).

AT A GLANCE:

England 55 (George Fisher: 45/47, Eleanor Cardwell: 1/4, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis: 9/9) Silver Ferns 45 (Te Paea Selby-Rickit: 15/18, Tiana Metuarau: 9/10, Grace Nweke: 16/20, Maia Wilson: 5/7) Quarter scores: Q1: 7-10, HT: 21-24, Q3: 37-34.

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