The New Zealand netball team proved a point in beating England 62-55 to win a bronze medal.
When the two teams met in pool player earlier in the tournament, England won by 10 goals, but in the bronze medal match, the New Zealanders were clearly a step ahead.
The first quarter was a real goal-for-goal affair that ended 14-13 for New Zealand.
But midway through the second spell, New Zealand applied the squeeze and went from 18-18 to 26-19.
England were never really able to bridge that gap.
New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua, who had changed her team around throughout the tournament, settled on a top seven for this match and stuck with the same players for the full 60 minutes: Grace Nweke (goal shoot), Te Paea Selby-Rickit (goal attack), Gina Crampton (wing attack) captain, Whitney Souness (centre), Kate Heffernan (wing defence), Phoenix Karaka (goal defence), Kelly Jury (goal keep).
Nweke has improved noticeably, especially in her movement. After a shaky beginning, she landed 44 of her 48 shots. Selby-Rickit succeeded with 11 of 14, and was also an effective feeder.
The midcourt functioned well and while Souness had an excellent game it was really Kate Heffernan at wing defence who made some timely intercepts and provided much of the forward drive.
The New Zealand defence circle coped much better with the England shooters than previously and contributed to a generally more capable New Zealand performance.
The result means that England, the defending Games champions, finished in fourth, while New Zealand, who had a forgettable time of it on the Gold Coast, emerged with pride from their Birmingham experience.
Taurua was understandably delighted with the bronze medal.
“It’s getting harder to finish in the top four at these tournaments,” she said. “Teams like Uganda are coming through. Netball is evolving and changing.”
She noted the international debut of Heffernan at Birmingham.
“Not many young players get thrown straight into a Commonwealth Games, but she has come through it well, improving all the time, with more to come.”
Taurua also made a point of mentioning Nweke. “Until now [Geva] Mentor [the England goal shoot] has given Grace the spooks a bit, but this was one of Grace’s best games.”
The coach felt New Zealand had benefited from the earlier game against England.
“We tweaked our strategy a bit, closed some gaps, and the players knew their jobs and went out there and did it.”
Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games