The old adage states the best defence is a good offence. For the Silver Ferns, that script was flipped in their 58-47 win over an Aotearoa Men’s team in Wellington tonight.
In their first of three back-to-back matches, the defensive duo of Kelly Jury and Karin Burger cleaned up the mess of a woeful shooting performance – with the Silver Ferns converting on less than 70 per cent of their attempts at goal.
In a wire-to-wire performance, Burger and Jury showed their agility and foresight to interrupt the men’s attack – picking off passes, tipping loose balls and gathering strong rebounds.
Limiting the opportunities for the men’s team in the shooting circle went a long way to ensuring the win, although early on it looked like the Silver Ferns were in for a long night.
The Aotearoa Men’s team shot out to a 4-1 lead, with 204cm goal shoot Jay Geldard using his physical gifts at every chance.
The Silver Ferns were playing a good game, with speed and flow in the midcourt launching the attack off the strong defensive work. But for however good the feeding into the shooting circle, the starting shooting duo of Maia Wilson and Te Paea Selby-Rickit struggled to put the ball through the hoop.
Trailing 16-9 after the first quarter and shooting at just 64 per cent, coach Dame Noeline Taurua replaced both her shooters, with Grace Nweke and Jamie Hume taking over. Hume, who converted just two of her eight attempts from goal attack, was soon replaced by Selby-Rickit – who missed all six of her attempts in the quarter.
Nweke was the difference maker the side needed under the hoop, as she backed herself in the physical aspect of contending for position, and scored at a high rate.
With the side converting more of their attempts, the gap began to close and by halftime the Silver Ferns had drawn level.
The second half saw Wilson called on to play goal attack alongside Nweke, and she provided a capable second shooting option.
As the Silver Ferns clawed back into the game, the Aotearoa Men’s side began to turn the ball over more under the defensive pressure, although centre Nick Grimmer and wing attack Eriata Vercoe showed some impressive vision throughout the match when feeding their shooters.
Ultimately, the turnovers began to stack up for the men and the Silver Ferns capitalised on them. While the men converted their shots at a 94 per cent success rate to the Ferns’ worrying 67 per cent, the men had 36 fewer attempts at goal.
While the defence shone for the Silver Ferns, the continued struggles on the shooting end will be of concern. It was the fourth game in a row the Silver Ferns have been out-shot by their opponents, with England converting at a better success rate in all three of their tests earlier in the year.
Silver Ferns 58 (Grace Nweke 39/44, Maia Wilson 12/21, Te Paea Selby-Rickit 5/13, Jamie Hume 2/8)
Aotearoa Men 47 (Jay Geldard 35/36, Amosa Faitaua-Nanai 6/7, Daniel Jefferies 6/7)
Q1: 9-16. HT: 24-24. 3Q: 38-37
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