Showing their class, the NZ Men produced the perfect dress rehearsal when delivering a comprehensive 65-44 win over NZ A on day three of the Cadbury Netball Series in Auckland on Friday.
Coming into the match with a two from two record and their spot in tomorrow’s final already secured, the Men had the luxury of resting many of their frontline players for the first half of the match.
With more time together, NZ A showed improvement and better connections, particularly in the first half where they competed gamely with the Men but were left winless after three matches and will now contest the third-place playoff tomorrow.
An influential third quarter, with many of their big guns back on court, paved the way for the Men to gain the upper hand as they surged on to a convincing win.
NZ A produced a bright opening, impressing with their movement and accuracy on attack while also negotiating the 2m figure of goalkeeper Timothy Apisai patrolling under the hoop.
Shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Tiana Metuarau continued their strong form of the previous two days with a confident start, setting up the NZ A circle effectively and finishing off with their accurate shot-making.
The NZ Men gave glimpses of their ability to score in super quick time but were unable to entirely break free in the early exchanges. With NZ A providing their own speed merchants through the combination of wing attack Peta Toeava and Metuarau adding some extra razzle dazzle, and defenders Kate Burley and Elle Temu having their disruptive moments at the other end, an intriguing contest was shaping.
Wing defence Jaryn Tainui-Knox shone in a busy opening quarter, getting his hands on turnover ball while impressive shooter Dan Jefferies helped swing proceedings in favour of the Men.
With a late burst and Jefferies nailing a perfect 10 from 10 shots, the Men headed to the first break with a 15-12 lead.
NZ A made a number of personnel and positional changes on the resumption while the Men remained unchanged.
Taking time to settle and with the Men flexing their aerial expertise, height advantage, agility and ability to block the space, the game looked to be getting away from NZ A. Pushing out to a seven-goal lead, the Men looked set to accelerate further away but NZ A showed plenty of grit to hang in the contest.
Producing some fine passages of play, NZ A ensured there was no blowout in the scoreline when the Men took a 30-24 lead into the main break.
Introducing a number of their core personnel, including towering shooter Jay Geldard, playmaking goal attack Cam Power and influential captain Kruze Tangira at wing defence, the Men clicked up another gear in the third stanza.
Enjoying the lion’s share of possession, a seamless supply of ball landed in shooter Geldard’s reliable hands as the score mounted in rapid fashion for the Men. Ekenasio and Burley were solid performers for NZ A but denied opportunities they spent the majority of the stanza on the backfoot.
The respective efforts were all too evident on the scoreboard with the Men landing an impressive 19 shots for the quarter, including 13 from Geldard, while NZ A were kept to single digits. The Men had pushed out to 49-33 advantage at the last turn.