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NZ A save best for last with win over Mixed Invitational

Using every ounce of energy left in their tanks, NZ A turned the tables on the Mixed Invitational for a 12-goal victory to take third place at the Cadbury Netball Series.


They netted their first win of the four-day tournament with a 48-36 win over the Mixed side at Pulman Arena on Saturday, a fast finish testament to their grit and determination to come out on top.

Led by a strong defensive effort and Player of the Match performance from Elle Temu, NZ A held their composure in a tight opening three quarters to pull clear in the last 15 minutes of play.

Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio was again a rock for the NZ A side with her court craft and leadership, but it was an all-round performance from whichever seven took the court which proved the difference, the team in pink producing a fast finish for what was a convincing score-line in the end.

The last time they met it was the Mixed side which had enjoyed a 12-goal win, leading from start to finish, but this time they were without 2.12m shooter Quintin Gerber who was ruled out after suffering a rib injury against the Silver Ferns the previous night.

Amosa Faitaua-Nanai picked up the shooter bib in his place, but it was his scoring buddy Georgia Heffernan who stood out in the opening quarter with her feeds and long-range accuracy in a cracking 15 minutes of play.

There were match ups all over the court with Laura Scherian (Mixed) and Claire Kersten (NZ A) sparking the midcourt at one end while Maddy Gordon (Mixed) and Peta Toeava (NZ A) provided plenty of pace at the other end.

NZ A, disappointed with their last outing against the Mixed team, started strongly to race out to an early five goal advantage but as the Mixed pairing of Leana de Bruin and Joh Tukaki consolidated their connection, forcing a number of turnovers, the latter hit the front with four minutes in the spell.

Nothing could separate the teams at the first break, the score locked at 13-13 with personnel changes for both teams in the second stanza.

Filda Vui joined Ekenasio in the NZ A shooting circle while Mila Reuelu-Buchanan picked up the wing attack bib.

The in-form Kyle Owen came on at goal keeper for the Mixed team while Stefan Swartz joined Kelsey Browne and Scherian in the midcourt.

NZ A again made the stronger start to the quarter to edge ahead by three thanks to the defensive work of Temu and Kristiana Manu’a – Temu hunting wide for ball to finish with an impressive six gains for her team.

Owen continued his strong form from the week, able to get around his opponents for turnover ball and forcing NZ A to work hard on delivery into the circle.  His defensive partner de Bruin – in perhaps her last performance in front of a New Zealand crowd – was again a menace in the goal defence role, picking up four gains in the first half.

But NZ A – desperate to net their first win of the week – maintained their composure in a tense closing few minutes of the half to go into the main break with a 25-21 advantage.

Coach Reina Bloxham made a few tweaks to the line for the third quarter with Buchanan moving to centre and Toeava returning to the wing.

In an attempt to inject Faitaua-Nanai more into the game, the Mixed team shifted the shooter to goal attack with Grace Namana joining him in the circle.

Tired bodies, after three tough days of netball, started to take its toll late in the third stanza with a number of turnovers but the NZ A side managed to keep their opponents at bay to go into the fourth quarter with a 34-30 lead.

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