New Zealand fought back from a half-time deficit to beat England 54-47 and retain the Taini Jamison Trophy with a game to spare after a thrilling encounter in Hamilton on Friday morning.
For the second time in three days, the Claudelands Arena was packed to the rafters and they roared the world champions to victory in the second half after a youthful Roses had started fast and led at half-time following an impressive third quarter.
Wednesday’s defeat in the first Test was the first action in eight months for many of the Roses players and with fatigue expected to be a factor it was New Zealand’s depth and match sharpness that got them over the line.
The teams meet again on Sunday in the final Test and once again with head coach Jess Thirlby ‘working from home’ alongside Kat Ratnapala there were a huge number of positives for England to take away.
England made one change to the starting seven after defeat in Wednesday’s first test. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis replaced Kadeen Corbin in the attacking third to form a new-look pairing with Ellie Cardwell who switched from GA to GS. Serena Guthrie captained the team on her 100th cap. New Zealand were unchanged as coach Noeline Taurua demanded a reaction from her team.
New Zealand and England – Starting Line-Ups
Despite Wednesday’s big win, New Zealand had been far from perfect, but the margin of victory showed just how good the world champions are – even on an off day, but England’s young Roses had taken plenty from the opening encounter.
None more so than Sophie Drakeford-Lewis who was brought into the starting line-up and the 22-year-old shone early on as England bullied their more experienced opponents to take an early lead.
Drakeford-Lewis movement was creating the space for Ellie Cardwell under the post, and with England’s defence continuing where it left it the Roses held on to their early advantage until New Zealand captain Ameliaranne Ekanasio hauled her team back into the contest.
The goal attack was hugely influential as a two-goal deficit became a three-goal advantage.
But this largely youthful England team, shorn of some of its biggest names who have been fortunate enough to play a full season in Australia, showed huge appetite for the fight.
Inspired by the introduction of New-Zealand-bound George Fisher, England weathered a fast start to the quarter to chip away at the Silver Ferns four-goal lead.
With fellow replacement Vicky Oyesola teaming up with Razia Quashie and Jade Clarke, England continued their impressive defensive work and Drakeford-Lewis and Fisher were combining to good effect as England drew level and then led after an uncharacteristic Gina Crampton mistake.
More errors crept in for the world champions when Maia Wilson held on to her shot for too long and England were able to punish as they held on to a two-goal half-time lead.
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The Roses rang the changes at half-time, Amy Carter and Kadeen Corbin among those introduced but it was New Zealand who roared out of the traps with the most dominant quarter of the series thanks to the introduction of Whitney Souness and in particular Claire Kirsten.
In less than three minutes and with four unanswered goals, the Silver Ferns were back in the ascendency and it was England making the mistakes.
It took until almost five minutes into the half to create a chance for Fisher, who continued her perfect record under the post but it did little to stem the New Zealand flow while England’s woes were compounded when Guthrie was carried off by her teammates after suffering an ankle injury.
A relentless New Zealand pressed on to win the quarter by eight and hold a 39-33 advantage going into the last 15 minutes where the Silver Ferns were pushed all the way.
As they have been throughout the series so far, England refused to buckle and dug deep just when New Zealand looked like pulling clear. Cardwell replaced Fisher after a perfect shooting display from the departing Mavericks attacker, and ensured England stayed in the contest.
For New Zealand, they stayed firm and did enough to keep the visitors at arm’s length throughout as they held on for a win. But Taurua is a demanding head coach and having wanted an improvement, New Zealand’s victory by a smaller margin than Wednesday will give her plenty to fire up her team for Sunday’s final action.
Two down, one to go
New Zealand vs England’s Vitality Roses – Live on Sky Sports
Hamilton’s Claudelands Arena is again the venue for the Third Test, with the series gone for England, the Vitality Roses are playing for pride, while the world champions are desperate to record a 3-0 sweep.
The three-Test series has been a testament to the hard work for both England and New Zealand Netball and with neither team having any further fixtures in the calendar, for now, it’s one final match on Sunday to cheer international netball fans.
Live netball continues this Sunday on Sky Sports with coverage of the Vitality Roses and the Silver Ferns in the Third and final Test. Join us from 6am on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix.
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