The New Zealand netballers won their pool by beating Jamaica 50-42 in a testing encounter today. It means they remain unbeaten at the Commonwealth Games.
For New Zealand, it was a particularly notable effort because their two main shooters, Cathrine Latu and Maria Tutaia were forced to sit out the game nursing injuries.
After leading 14-11 at quarter-time, New Zealand found themselves trailing 24-23 at halftime. The Jamaicans looked dynamic and confident and there were some furrowed brows among New Zealand supporters.
Coach Waimarama Taumaunu elected to stick with the seven she started the game with, and her decision paid off with a solid second half effort.
New Zealand reclaimed the lead at 26-25 and led 35-33 at three-quarter-time. By the end, the New Zealand team looked in charge and Jamaica were well beaten.
Young goal attack Ellen Halpenny took a while to settle, but in the second half she showed good instincts and raised her game. Jodi Brown did a lot of work at goal shoot and shot 29 goals from 41 attempts, a 71 per cent success ratio.
The individual star for New Zealand was spring-heeled captain Casey Kopua, who fared well even against the formidable 1.95m (6ft 5in) Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Reid. Though Reid’s statistics were impressive, with 35 goals from 39 attempts, it was noticeable that Kopua and goal keep Leana de Bruin gradually wore her down.
In addition, Kopua pulled off several morale-boosting intercepts when the Jamaicans looked threatening.
“It was a tough, physical battle,” Kopua said afterwards. “We got more belief and confidence as the game went on. Browny [Jodi Brown] was a rock for us.”
Taumaunu seemed pleased to have got through the game without her two big-name shooters.
“It has been disruptive in one sense, and has needed a lot of resolve, but it has been a confidence-booster in another,” she said.
“We’re taking their injuries day by day and hope to have one of them playing by Saturday.”
Taumaunu said she was pleased with how Halpenny responded to the big occasion.
“It wasn’t our best shooting accuracy performance, but we had a youngster on court in her first really big game and I was please with how she coped.
“I gave her the first quarter to settle down and she did. By the end her nous and understanding were coming through.”
New Zealand, the defending champions, now have two days off before their semi-final against an impressive looking England side on Saturday.