Match report from Netball World Cup 2019, New Zealand v Zimbabwe, day 4, 15 July
In the first ever meeting of these two teams, the beginning was tightly contested – Zimbabwe held the slight advantage for six minutes, goal for goal until eight-all. They had started with Adelaide Muskwe, a test match debutant, at goal defence, and probably their weakest shooting line in Jani and Bwanli, but they were solid making 10/10. In contrast, the Silver Ferns shooters Mes and Ekenasio also hitting the mark with 87%. Luckily their defensive zone was working a treat, squeezing 12 turnovers out of the Gems despite their initial patience in attack. Zimbabwe also had initially had tracked their opponents with excellent one-on-one defence and constant three-foot guard, but the Kiwis adapted. On attack, they started to hold and lean into their defender in a characteristic New Zealand manner, creating space for themselves, and the Gems had no answer. At quarter time it was 21-10 to the Silver Ferns.
The tough times continued for Zimbabwe – they simply couldn’t get a quick play forward due to the zone defence, but the Kiwis zipped down the left side of the court unthreatened. When the Gems looked to one player, then across court, and then passed to a drive in the middle of the zone, they got some direct plays to post, courtesy of the incredible pace of replacement goal attack Ndlova. It was also a pleasure to watch Jani’s fakes to pass back to a feeder and then sudden large step towards the post. To combat the height of the opposing shooter, the Kiwi defenders attempted a lift over Jani’s shot. Now facing Mes at goal shooter, the Zimbabwean defenders showed good timing and endeavour but did lack that final amount of finesse and body control to hassle and yet avoid being penalised – the team had 37 penalties for the half to New Zealand’s 11. The half time score was 40-18 to the Silver Ferns.
New Zealand continued to be impressive in following their structures. As she had in other matches when brought into the fray, Selby-Rickit came on nicely, involved in attacking setups and landing 12 perfect shots in a quarter. The marked difference in teams continued, notably the recognition of Silver Ferns athletes to clear quickly off a lead or hold that wasn’t working. Zimbabwe would drive but once covered by the zone would not know where to go next, clogging up the space and in fact making the zone more effective. After three quarters New Zealand lead 59-26.
For the final term, for the first time this tournament the Kiwis used Karaka at goal keeper, and Mes was once again pushed out to wing attack. Zimbabwe did mix up their defensive approaches, but their opponents were too sharp and adaptable. One brilliant goal assist from Burger at wing defense all the way to the tall and unmarked Selby-Rickit at the post, the next to from Mes to an exceptional drive from Ekenasio. With Langman on the bench and Saunders in centre it seemed just a little easier for Zimbabwe to get to the circle edge, but Kopua and Karaka still prevented the Gems scoring rate increasing. The final margin of 43 goals belied a valiant but overawed Zimbabwe, and also a Silver Ferns group in good touch.
New Zealand 79 defeated Zimbabwe 36
New Zealand – Maria Folau GS, Ameliaranne Ekenasio GA, Gina Crampton WA, Laura Langman C, Katrina Rore WD, Phoenix Karaka GD, Jane Watson GK
Zimbabwe – Pauline Jani GS, Sharon Bwanali GA, Perpetua Siyachitema WA, Patricia Mauladi C, Claris Kwaramba WD, Adelaide Muskwe GD, Sharleen Makusha GK
New Zealand – 79/88 (90%)
Zimbabwe – 36/43 (84%)
New Zealand – 17
Zimbabwe – 36
New Zealand – 74
Zimbabwe – 32
Bailey Mes, New Zealand
“They’re a little bit more unpredictable. With the teams like England and Australia you kinda can expect when the hits are gonna come, but with these teams there a bit unorthodox and very physical, but it’s good practise for bracing and sealing properly, kinda the same things you need to work on when you play the other teams. You’re kinda bouncing off each other – the way we’re trained to play we’re meant to come together a lot. So it’s VERY good practise!
“I wouldn’t say wing attack is unfamiliar, it’s just that I’ve played it a lot less. Yeah it’s great to get out there, it’s good to kinda play a different role within the centre pass structures because it kinda lifts your awareness of when you’re in either position, so it’s good! Obviously with wing attack you’re running the centre pass, so it probably is just a little bit more in terms of being prepared for either one, but yeah no, I’m loving it!
On sorting out what words and information are important on the bench in breaks…
“I think it’s just picking what’s most important, and we’ve been really trained to get away all the extra stuff that’s not so important and just sticking to our structures and what we’re working on at that moment, so it does take a bit of practise but definitely just prioritising is key.”
Laura Langman, New Zealand captain
“It was great to see us weather the storm at the start, and then get into our business towards the middle to later end of the first quarter. I thought it was pretty good to be fair. I think [at first] they kept possession of the ball quite well, and we probably sat back a little bit, and we took a while to get into our snow balling, but when we did I thought the back three did a wonderful job at coming through for that ball.
“Look, we’ve got quite a lot of experience out there, and I think we look to the likes of our wing attacks, wing-Ds and obviously Case [Kopua] who’s got quite a lot of experience. We go quite a lot on intuition and gut, obviously our game’s very dynamic and you don’t have time to have a big korero [Maori word meaning: to speak; a meeting or conversation] right in the middle of a game, so yeah we rely on that immediate feedback, and if someone’s not feeling it, the unit kinda adjusts, which I think we’re getting better at.”