The teams last met in January, both with slightly different lineups. For the Ferns, several of the Quad Series players were not chosen to travel to Birmingham, including Tiana Metuarau, Claire Kersten and Samantha Winders, whilst Karin Burger was missing due to injury. On the other hand, the Roses were missing only two players from the Quad Series line up – George Fisher and Serena Kersten (née Guthrie).
Geva Mentor silenced Grace Nweke the last time the pair met, once again proving to be a thorn in her side. Throughout the game, Nweke’s inexperience began to show, despite how valuable she had been in earlier games.
With two offensive rebounds for Eleanor Cardwell early, the Ferns end was having trouble regaining their missed goals. This allowed the Roses to go four up on their centre pass with six minutes to go. An intercept came via the way of Helen Housby, who was on her A-game early, after nonchalantly TikTok dancing her way through earlier games.
Come quarter time and the Roses closed 15-8. This prompted some positional changes for the Ferns, with Te Paea Selby-Rickit in at goal attack and Kate Heffernan in at wing defence. Selby-Rickit and Nweke appear to have a better connection, particularly given Maia Wilson’s usual goal shooter positioning.
Thanks to some intercepts and turnovers, the Ferns were now only behind by two on the Roses’ centre pass. With two and a half minutes left, Laura Malcolm replaced Stacey Francis-Bayman at wing defence. Following a 16-10 quarter, the Ferns were able to bring the deficit back to one goal.
Statistically, the two teams were very similar after the first 30 minutes, with the Roses receiving slightly more penalties and fouls. With equal gains and turnovers (four), if the Ferns could continue to be consistent with their shooting they had a chance at taking the lead.
Jo Harten joined the game at goal shooter for the second half, slotting in with ease. Early on, the Roses got a run of goals, putting them up six on their centre pass. As the quarter continued, the Ferns struggled to pull themselves back into the game.
Shannon Saunders came on at wing attack, with Heffernan on at centre, hoping to change things up in the Ferns’ midcourt. Minutes later, England made their own midcourt changes, switching Malcolm to centre and Francis-Bayman back on at wing defence.
Whilst the third quarter was the closest yet, it was still a Roses show. Lucky for the Ferns, it was their turn at the scoring end for the final quarter. If they could do what they did in the second quarter, England needed to watch out.
It was time for Wilson to rejoin the game, moving Selby-Rickit to goal shooter. At the other end, Phoenix Karaka took the goal defence bib, with Sulu Fitzpatrick switching to goal keeper. Five minutes in and Crampton replaced Saunders at wing attack. It seemed that Coach Noeline Taurua was trying out everything she could to disrupt the Roses.
Another switch from both coaches came, with Eleanor Cardwell and Whitney Souness back on the court. Time was on England’s side, with New Zealand needing a miracle to come away with the win.
Two intercepts from England put the nails on the coffin for the Ferns, up ten with a minute and a half to go. This meant New Zealand would play Jamaica for a place in the gold medal match.
On the buzzer, 54-44, the crowd erupted. If England plays like this against Australia, the gold medal match seems imminent. As for the Ferns, they needed to sort out their combinations and full-game play to defeat Jamaica.
You can keep up to date with the Commonwealth Games in our daily recap and on our podcast Ascending Olympus.