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The New Zealand Ferns beat the Australian Diamonds by 52-51 in a nail-biting final. This was the seventh Netball World Cup final between the two teams, and only the second time that New Zealand have come out on top.
Noeline Taurua is a netballing genius.
How else do you explain her 11-month transformation of the Silver Ferns?
From rock bottom to back where New Zealand netball belongs, sporting resurrections don’t come any more seamless.
No other netball figure could have guided the Ferns to an unlikely World Cup final in Liverpool, from fourth-ranked in the world, not so soon after last year’s Commonwealth Games capitulation where New Zealand lost to Malawi.
But this time they were on the receiving end of the disappointment.
New Zealand showed their intent by surging into a 5-0 lead as England panicked, but the Roses regrouped to take a three-goal lead into half-time.
Until this match, England had not come from behind in the tournament and as the Silver Ferns pushed back in front, they looked intent on staying there.
England threw everything at the Kiwis in the final quarter – but their opposition soaked up the pressure and played down the seconds left on the clock.
What went wrong for England?
England did not look like the confident team who came through the group stages without losing a quarter.
Shooter Jo Harten’s form dropped dramatically in the first half, compared to her heroics in the previous game against South Africa, and she only improved when she moved to goal attack.
England’s engine room and captain Serena Guthrie was also guilty of failing to bring the goods on the day.
Head coach Neville said her side’s “basic errors” cost them the game.
“New Zealand came out really strong in that first quarter, “she said. “We didn’t learn our lessons quickly enough. We seemed to be chasing the game, which is something we haven’t done in this tournament.
“We gave it our all but didn’t have the legs. This tournament is quite brutal. We’ve got another game tomorrow and we go again.”
‘We’ve already won in some respects’
It was a rocky road to this final for New Zealand. They failed to reach the Commonwealth finals in 2018 for the first time and dropped to fourth in the rankings, one place behind England.
Off the court, key player Laura Langman, who has made more than 100 international appearances, was out of the set-up for 18 months because she chose to play her club netball in Australia.
But the arrival of coach Noeline Taurua in 2018 led to those club rules being relaxed and now Langman, along with veteran defender Casey Kopua, will get a shot at gold again in what is likely to be their last World Cup.
“I’m a bit lost for words,” said Taurua. “We’ve got one more game to go to get the gold and that’s what we’re going for.
“We’ve already won in some respects. We were underdogs coming into this game. There’s nothing else for us to worry about.”
New Zealand came close to beating the Diamonds in the preliminary stages and this victory over the hosts will surely give them the belief they need to beat their long-time rivals.
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