Despite a blistering opening term against Scotland, there is still a heck of a lot of work left for New Zealand to do.
A 31-goal margin should have been the margin at half time, not the end of the game.
The Scots tried to keep with the pace early, but looked frantic rather than in control. There wasn’t much in it during the opening minutes before the Kiwis piled on the last 16 goals of the opening term.
Sam Sinclair played conductor, orchestrating the transition through the court and confidently swinging the sphere. Shannon Francois looked over the mess and fired passes into the goal circle with ease. Flat ball, high ball, over Hayley Mulheron and Fiona Fowler or through them, Francois found a way to deliver.
Temalisi Fakahokotau and Katrina Grant out-jumped and out-rebounded Bethan Goodwin and Lyndsey Gallagher and with their shooting on song, Maria Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit weren’t turning anything over.
The full bag of tricks was opened and poured onto the court. The Scots offered little-to-no resistance.
Heads down in the second quarter, Scotland shuffled their midcourt and it immediately began to reap rewards – Bethany Sutherland succeeding in her task to quell the pace and draw the furrowed brow of Grace Kara.
Sutherland began to clog up the space in the middle of the court, driving the Scots to make a better fist of the contest.
It was New Zealand’s turn to look disjointed and panicky. They scored just five goals in almost 10 minutes.
Three held balls in as many minutes undid a lot of Scotland’s good work, with Folau and Selby-Rickit netting eight of the last 10 goals for the term.
Katrina Grant spoke with the umpires at half time regarding Gallagher and Goodwin contacting when protecting the other when shooting. The result – two offensive calls in the third quarter.
Scotland will take heart for how ordinary they made New Zealand look for three quarters. For the most part, it was static, it was uninspiring, it was… what it was.
A 10-4 run to end the game might have woken up some of the crowd, but did it shake the soul of the Kiwi team?
New Zealand coach Janine Southby may well have been trying to outfox the opposition by running several combination lines in the opening preliminary matches. Having that plan backfire, or want of experimentation, has left New Zealand vulnerable in essentially handing out the blueprint.
Sam Sinclair, one the best on court, didn’t buy it.
“I’m sure all of the teams here know what every other teams’ starting line-up is. It’s not secret. I think we’ve played enough games in the last few months for other teams to know our starting line-up could potentially be.”
“Heading into a big game (against England), it’s important to know that line up, at least get an idea for it, for players as well.”
Pretty in flight and patchy in the rough, New Zealand will wring out all they can from the game but it won’t count for much if they can’t perform well against England.
Not to discredit Scotland – they were brave – but the Kiwis needed to show more form than they did. Their best is good, but whether it is good enough is another story. Fifteen impressive minutes won’t cut it.
New Zealand 60 def Scotland 29
(19-2, 32-13, 44-21, 60-29)
Selby-Rickit 33/37 89%
Folau 27/35 77%
Goodwin 23/28 82%
Gallagher 6/7 86%
Starting line ups
What they said
Te Paea Selby-Rickit, New Zealand
What were your instructions before the game?
“Just to be a strong option in the circle and be accurate.”
Team faced criticism after the last game. Was that playing on your mind?
“We’re gutted with the result last night, but all you can do it stick together as a team and show what we can do in the next couple of games.”
On partnership with Maria Folau
“We’ve played a bit together, but there’s still a lot to work on, but really happy with how it’s going at the moment.”
On preparing for England
“Obviously they’ve got a really good defensive line, so it’s about being smart, presenting and being accurate.”
What were the aims for tonight?
We wanted to be accurate and pass-focused and I think we did that for most parts, but there are some parts where we had little lulls, so that’s something we’ll be addressing.
Rest day and then England. What are you looking forward to about that match?
We’re looking forward to putting our feet up and then focusing on England. They’re looking really good and it’ll be a great match.
Sam Sinclair, New Zealand
How’s the head after the knock yesterday?
It pulled through fine. It’s the hard part of the head, so my brain was well-protected.
What changed after the first fifteen minutes?
It’s been a common pattern that we come up against teams who are a bit shaky in the first fifteen minutes and they do make unforced errors on their own. Obviously, we pressure them, but it’s a little bit unforced and then in the second quarter they hold it together. They pass it around, they play it safe and we need to realise that and start attacking more because the ball’s not going to fall into our hands.
Great first quarter – what happened after that?
“We’ve seen in the last couple of games we’ve had a good quarter and then the next quarter the opposition is a lot safer, so we need to work more on pressuring them.”
“We have our targets and when we turn over the ball we want to score. After that game we can say that it’s a much more steadier performance that we put out. It was a strong, solid 60 minutes – not perfect – but much better than what we’ve seen. We’ve got to take that into the next game and amp it up even more.”
Plans for the Rest Day?
Really important to connect with family. It’s a big part of us and our support. Also, have a look at England. We’ve played them enough times this past year to know what we can expect