Silver Ferns fall in latest Quad Series match

Liam Napier, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 20 January 2019, 12:22PM
Laura Langman enjoyed a milestone test but little beyond that. (Photo / Photosport)

Laura Langman's milestone test could not inspire the Silver Ferns as they dropped successive matches in the northern Quad Series.

But for a horror first quarter at London's Copper Box Arena, Langman may well have celebrated becoming the first to play 150 tests for New Zealand.

Unfortunately for the veteran midcourter and, now, captain, frequent mental lapses handed her side a frustrating 53-50 loss to Australia, their 11th in the past 12 against the world champion Diamonds.

Oh what might have been.

Australia were missing star shooter and captain Caitlin Bassett, who broke her forearm in training, and wing defence Gabi Simpson due to a leg injury, and still the Ferns could not take advantage.

To their credit the Ferns, enjoying strong support from the locals, showed character to rally from a poor start which had them eight goals behind. They played particularly well in the second half, winning the third and final quarters, but until consistent brain fades that throw whole periods away are rectified they will never regularly beat the world's best, England and Australia.

Last week in Liverpool the third quarter cost the Ferns in their 13 goal opening loss to England. This time it was a disastrous start.

Noeline Taurua, who has now won two of her nine games in charge, opted for one starting change, promoting Gina Crampton to wing attack over Whitney Souness but keeping faith in Sam Sinclair at centre and leaving Laura Langman at wing defence.

For whatever reason, the Ferns were half asleep in the opening quarter.

At times they looked shellshocked. It took almost four minutes to register their first goal. That Ameliaranne Ekenasio landed her first in the final minute of the quarter reflects just how difficult the Ferns found penetrating the typically tight, physical Australian making.

Sinclair again struggled, and the Ferns could not stem the tide of fast ball through court.

For Australia, initially at last, it was all too easy. Defenders Casey Kopua and Jane Watson combined for two successful hoists but the ball just kept coming.

Once again, the Ferns' midcourt proved problematic. They are, clearly, missing Kayla Cullen's presence – the star defender making her way back from injury – but more should still be expected.

Seeking change, Taurua rejigged her midcourt for the second quarter and stuck with this seven for the remainder of the game. Pulse defender Karin Burger came into wing defence, moving Langman to her preferred centre role and Sinclair to the bench.

The changes worked, Langman flourishing and Burger making a strong fist of the position. Her aggressive approach closed down space and she nabbed one intercept to help spark the vastly improved Ferns to regain poise and close the gap, somewhat, at half time.

Shooters Ekenasio (20/22) and Maria Folau (30/37, now enjoying much more quality ball, regularly hit the mark as the Ferns stormed out of the break to get within three.

The impressive defensive end – Watson and Kopua - pressured Australian coach Lisa Alexander into pulling shooter Steph Wood but the Ferns couldn't maintain the momentum.

Chasing a six goal deficit in the final quarter, the Ferns closed within two in what was a spirited effort that offered promise for what may come.

Ultimately, though, the opening proved too much to run down.

While an improvement, chalk up another defeat.