Silver Ferns crushed by Jamaica, will play for bronze

Brodyn Knuckey
Source: 1News

A horror first quarter and perfect evening of shooting from Jamaica has seen the Silver Ferns taken down convincingly in the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games.

Whintey Souness is contested for the ball by Jamaica.

In front of a fired-up Birmingham crowd at the National Event Centre, the Silver Ferns went down 67-51 to the Sunshine Girls on Saturday evening.

Perhaps a sign of things to come came from Silver Fern' first shot in the match with Maia Wilson missing an easy goal and giving away possession, allowing Jamaica to jump out to a 2-0 lead which then double when Wilson turned the ball over on the next New Zealand possession for being offside.

Despite the physical presence at the other end from Kate Heffernan, Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick making Jamaica work to get the ball into the circle, the extra possessions allowed them to start wearing out the trio and find more fluidity in their attack.

More costly turnovers at the other end didn't help the matter as Silver Ferns coughed up the ball five times in the opening 15 minutes alone; at the end of it, Jamaica held an 18-9 lead with the Sunshine Girls' shooters Shanice Beckford and Jhaniele Fowler perfect in the circle.

With Beckford and Fowler continuing their perfect start into the second quarter, coach Dame Noeline Taurua opted to make an early change and brought in Kelly Jury and her height for Fitzpatrick.

Another turnover saw Jamaica crack a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter despite Te Paea Selby-Rickit's best efforts to keep New Zealand in the hunt with some impressive shooting from deep.

Taurua then injected Kayla Johnson into the defence for Heffernan with three minutes to go in the half but Jamaica continued to find Fowler and their captain continued to find the hoop.

Two more turnovers in the final two minutes saw the deficit grow even more as Jamaica, celebrating their Independence Day back home, went to the sheds with a 36-22 lead.

Maia Wilson shoots against Jamaica.

Taurua rung in the changes to start the third quarter, taking off captain Gina Crompton and Wilson for Shannon Saunders and Grace Nweke, respectively. Jamaica stuck with the starting seven that had earned them a 14-point lead.

The third quarter got off to a much scrappier start with both sides fighting for the ball in a series of turnovers in the midcourt before another deep goal from Selby-Rickit helped them claw back one of the many goals needed for a comeback.

Despite the fine shooting performance, Taurua opted to rest Selby-Rickit and brought Wilson back into tine mix midway through the third quarter with Nweke getting into her own groove and starting the game five-for-five, thanks in part to the physicality she wasn't shy to bring to the contest.

Nweke's injection gave the Silver Ferns a small beacon of hope as Saunders and Heffernan, now on the court for Souness, continued to feed the young Mystics star with every opportunity they had.

The only issue was the opportunities were infrequent with more midcourt turnovers from a buoyant Jamaican outfit allowing them to take a 52-35 lead into the final quarter.

Jamaica pushed the lead to 20 points early in the last quarter off another turnover despite Nweke continuing her own perfect day at the office off the bench.

With the score 64-42 and six minutes to go, Jamaica rung in the changes to their lineup and brought off Fowler to a well-earned roar from the crowd with the former Southern Steel star finishing her game 54-from-54.

While the introduction of their reserves saw the Silver Ferns go on a small run, it wasn't enough to pull off a miracle comeback with the game sealed at 67-51.

"It’s a tough loss, I thought Jamaica were amazing,’’ Taurua said.

"When you’ve got the shooting prowess that they’ve got, it makes it difficult to turn over ball. You’ve got to treasure all ball that you’ve got and I thought at times we were good but at times we weren’t.

"And that shows the gulf in our athleticism, in our ability to be disciplined, in our ability to run our feet and to be tidy in our skills. We gave our all but today we weren’t good enough.’’

The loss means the Silver Ferns will now contest the loser of the other semifinal between England and Australia for a bronze medal with the side potentially missing out on a medal for a second-straight Commonwealth Games after their disappointing 2018 campaign.

For Jamaica, it continues a historic run in Birmingham as they will now contest their first gold medal final in netball having earlier beaten Australia for the first time at a Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand 51 [Nweke 24/24, Selby-Rickit 14/16, Wilson 13/15]

Jamaica 67 [Fowler 54/54, Beckford 10/10, Nelson 3/3]

HT: 22-36