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Fast Ferns win Fast5 netball world series, defeating England 23-21

News from Netball NZ
The Fast5 Ferns have been crowned the Fast5 Netball World Series champions, after winning a thrilling battle of wills with the England Fives, 23-21, in Auckland tonight. It was a victory for both the hometown team and the Fast5 concept, trialled for the first time this weekend to rave reviews from players and costume-clad spectators alike.

The New Zealanders, led by Laura Langman, went through the tournament unbeaten, but were pushed to the absolute limits by the strong English side at the final hurdle.

Ferns shooter Maria Tutaia, who was named player of the series, said the final had been a “great spectacle” from both teams. “We are performers – we like to keep you guys on the edge of your seats,” she said.

“England are no easy beats, they’ve been performing consistently well throughout the tournament, so I am really proud that we won.”

Tutaia paid credit to fellow shooter Anna Thompson for stepping up in the critical final match, and when the English curbed the Ferns’ shooting opportunities, the New Zealanders’ defensive game came to the fore.

“I love the Fast5 game, I love this new concept,” Tutaia said. “This is history, it’s the beginning of a new era. I just hope more people come and support the sport and what we are trying to do at next year’s tournament.”

English captain Jo Harten – while disappointed with the outcome and ruing a missed three pointer in the crucial final stages of the game – was also thrilled with the Fast5 concept.

“There were people who were skeptical about it before it began but it was fantastic. It’s been a great way to finish a long season,” she said.

All through the tournament, the Fast5 Ferns have worked on whacky entrances, and tonight they topped them all – dressed in pink bandannas, they took to the court dancing Gangnam Style to the delight of the crowd.

But when it got down to serious business on the court, the England Fives took the lead, opening the scoring and keeping an arm’s length in front – a Rachel Dunn supershot in the last three seconds of the quarter putting England up 9-6.

England used their power play in the second quarter, but weren’t allowed a lot of room to move through a cloying Ferns defence. With both teams on equal footing, a Harrison hoist blocking a shot was ruled illegal, and the resulting penalty shot outside the circle by Jo Harten notched up a much needed six points for the England Fives.

Heading into the second half with a 19-14 advantage, the English effectively employed heavy defensive tactics to contain the Ferns in their power play. They kept the ball for long periods of play, passing it backwards to their defenders to stop New Zealand scoring. The home side could only add six points, setting up a thrilling final stanza with only one point separating the sides.

Then contrary to everything that Fast5 netball is all about, the last quarter was a low-scoring battle of attrition – which the Fast Ferns won. Only three goals were scored in that last embattled quarter – all of them one point goals scored by New Zealand.

Earlier News from Netball NZ
Top seeded New Zealand powered into the final of the Fast5 World Netball Series with a clinically efficient 52-18 win over Jamaica in the first of the semi-finals at Vector Arena in Auckland today.

The Fast5 Ferns continued to show their growing expertise in the abbreviated form ofthe game with a classy display of precision shooting, smothering defence and flowing through court movement.

In her usual effortless manner, Maria Tutaia’s first two scoring shots were from the two-point arc as the Fast5 Ferns gathered the early momentum and continued to power to a position of authority the longer the game progressed.

The large crowd, in party mode and suitably attired for the occasion, were in full voice on the back of a Tutaia three-pointer which stretched the Fast5 Ferns out to a 14-6 first quarter lead.

A complete change of players on the resumption made a seamless entry for the Fast5 Ferns with Anna Thompson in the groove immediately in sinking a two pointer, her first of six for the match.

Defender Leana de Bruin was in dynamic form against the dangerous 1.98m Jamaican shooter Jhanielle Fowler, who was given limited opportunities and struggled to make her usual impact.

A storming second quarter left the Fast5 Ferns well placed at the main break with a 24-11 lead heading into their power play.

In the groove and playing high octane netball, the Fast5 Ferns produced an outstanding power play with an impressive 20-goal return, the highlight being a six-pointer from Tutaia.

With the Fast5 Ferns leading 44-16 heading into the last quarter and Jamaica’s power play, New Zealand showed how important effective defence can be in the shortened format.

The rangy Anna Harrison continued her impressive tournament with some outstanding play, the Jamaicans having no answers to her height and athletic ability in returning a disastrous power play.

Finding no joy from their long range shots, Jamaica were also unable to stem the superior play of the Fast5 Ferns who carried on to complete a dominant outing.

News from Netball NZ – November 9
It was the longest goal netball shooting legend Irene van Dyk had ever scored – and it turned out to be the turning point in the Fast Ferns’ first victory at the Fast5 championship in Auckland tonight.

Irene’s three-point surprise in the final second of the third quarter of their game against seven-a-side world champions Australia had the crowd – and the New Zealand team bench – on their feet. There was even more celebration as the Fast Ferns wrapped up the game 31-23, following on from their draw with Jamaica earlier in the evening.

So was van Dyk expecting to score from outside the circle? “No, but I’m loving it!” she enthused. The game, she says, is “fantastic, totally different, unpredictable.”

And she promises the Ferns will come up with more surprises in the next two days: “Cartwheels and alley-oops”, van Dyk laughed.

Fielding a young and eager side, the Fast5 Diamonds gave the Ferns a run for their money for the first half of the game, but couldn’t hold back the New Zealanders in their final quarter power play.

The Ferns have been working on their defence from the centre pass off, and that paid dividends in first quarter.

Defender Anna Harrison was in strong blocking form, keeping the Australian attack to six goals in reply to the Ferns’ 11 in the opening stanza.

But it took the Ferns until the last minute of the second quarter to score another goal, under intense pressure from Australian defenders April Letton and Chanel Gomes, while the Diamonds pegged back the deficit at the other end. In fact it was the only goal the Ferns scored in that quarter, but still they clung to a 12-10 lead.

Australia played their power play card in the third quarter, but still couldn’t shake off the home side, who wriggled out to a 21-18 advantage thanks to van Dyk’s shock three-point buzzer beater. The Ferns bench all jumped to their feet in shock when van Dyk potted the long shot and even the evergreen shooter was in fits of giggles.

Up eight goals through the benefit of their power play, van Dyk had another go in the dying seconds of the game – the ball bouncing off the rim. Coach Wai Taumaunu wasn’t surprised: “She is very accurate from far out, you just don’t see it often. And she’s very judicious when she does it.”

The power of the three was no more obvious than in England’s clash with South Africa tonight. When the English found themselves trailing 26-23 at three-quarter time, shooters Jo Harten and Rachel Dunn decided they had nothing to lose but to let the ball go. It rained three pointers in the final six minutes, with all six of their goals shot outside the blue circle.

The Proteas, on the other hand, could only add one goal in that quarter, and the English stormed to a 41-27 victory.

Harten was in a buoyant mood after her rapid shooting spree.”Rachel Dunn gave me confidence by shooting the first one and from there we built a great combo,” she said.

“It’s quite tactical when you know you’re not winning in the third quarter, you have to let the threes go. So it was good work.”

A six-point stunner in the last second gave Jamaica a thrilling 32-31 victory over the Malawi Queens, who came fresh from their 18-goal win over Australia.

Malawi seemed to have the measure of the Sunshine Girls in the final quarter, restricting their scoring power in the Jamaicans’ power play. But all they needed was one critical shot from Jhanielle Fowler in the last seconds to secure their first win in three games and boost their reputation as real threats in this tournament.

Match Report – Fast5 Ferns 38 Jamaican Sunshine Girls 38

The Sunshine Girls have delivered the first surprise of the Fast5 championship holding hometown favourites, the Fast Ferns, to a 38-38 draw.

The Jamaicans showed no sign of fatigue in their second game in 90 minutes, with their unorthodox, energetic style keeping the New Zealanders on their toes.

Fast Ferns shooter Maria Tutaia said it wasn’t a shock to find themselves equal with the Jamaicans at the end of 24 minutes. “We know in this competition it’s anyone’s ball game. With the two and three pointers, you can be up 10 goals and still lose,” she says.

“The Jamaicans didn’t give an inch. Although they’re not very structured, they know how to get the ball down court fast.”

The Fast Ferns took to the court in their first game of the tournament with enthusiasm, and rookie Fern Bailey Mes relished her opportunity to shoot adding a string of two-point shots to the home side’s tally. The Ferns led 7-5 at the first quarter.

Just before halftime, a Harrison Hoist – with Anna Harrison lifted by Leana de Bruin – stopped a certain three pointer from Jamaican goal attack Anna Kay Griffiths, and the Fast Ferns kept their lead 16-11 at the break.

Unlike their first game (a 34-25 loss to South Africa) the Sunshine Girls made great use of their power play in the third quarter to take the lead 27-26. The Fast Ferns left their power play until the final quarter, bringing Irene van Dyk on at goal shoot, but couldn’t make the most of the bonus round.

“It was always our strategy from the get-go to have our power play in the last quarter, but for me, I didn’t make the most of the opportunity,” Tutaia said.

The Australians also rued not making more of their power play in their opening contest against England, going down 29-27. The Fast5 Diamonds added just four points in the second quarter, while the English – led strongly by captain and goal defence Eboni Beckford-Chambers – strode ahead in their power play third quarter.

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