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NZU21s on target to defend Netball World Youth Cup title

In a polished outing, the NZU21s team booked their place in the final after delivering a seamless 79-28 win over Fiji at the Netball World Youth Cup Gaborone 2017 (NWYC2017) in Botswana on Friday.

The result has given New Zealand the opportunity to win back-to-back Netball World Youth Cup titles for the first time after they won the last tournament in Scotland four years ago.

Showing their depth of talent, New Zealand set the tone with a settled line-up during the first half before unleashing a number of their bench players throughout the second 30 minutes. The changes were effected with minimal fuss, New Zealand producing impressive closing quarters to hold Fiji to just nine goals.

It took no time at all for New Zealand to settle, Fiji having made big strides under the tutelage of former Silver Ferns assistant coach Vicki Wilson, but who ultimately couldn’t match the overall accuracy of the young women in black.

With a Silver Fern bookending each end of the court, in the form of shooter Maia Wilson and long-limbed goalkeeper Kelly Jury, New Zealand were well served in the experience and composure department.

Fiji’s defensive end was on the back foot early, struggling to contain New Zealand’s slick attacking play of Charlotte Elley and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and the positioning, speed and quick hands of Wilson and her shooting partner Tiana Metuarau.

Continuing her rich vein of form at the tournament, Wilson got a sharp-looking New Zealand away to a flyer against the surprise semi-finalists to lead 21-8 at the first break.

Fiji made a better fist of the second quarter but were still troubled by New Zealand’s effective zonal defence. This produced a number of turnover opportunities, New Zealand quick to punish errors with a string of unanswered goals midway through the stanza.

The 1.92m frame of Jury remained a prominent figure with her disruptive abilities, Fiji showing great accuracy under the hoop but denied enough opportunities to really threaten as New Zealand headed to halftime well-placed at 38-19.

Kimiora Poi took over from Elley at centre for the second half, joining her Central Beko Netball League team-mate and match MVP Reuelu-Buchanan in New Zealand’s attacking line, helping her team post the first four goals of the third quarter.

Fiji made a number of changes, fresh legs helping inject more incisive attacking momentum through strong driving play but they were often let down by the use of too much aerial ball.

New Zealand’s defensive pressure remained relentless, captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, employed at goal defence for this match, showed her strength in the air with a number of intercepts to complement Jury while Fa’amu Ioane was her usual busy self at wing defence.

Limiting Fiji to just five goals for the quarter, New Zealand overcame an untidy patch to finish strongly while building to a dominant 59-24 position at three-quarter time.

With Monica Falkner coming on late in the third quarter, the WBOP Magic player was joined by Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s Aliyah Dunn in the run home to form a new shooting combination while Abby Erwood took over at goal defence.Maintaining their intensity, New Zealand did not miss a beat, continuing to pile on the pressure as they surged into Monday morning’s (2am NZ time) grand final in impressive form.