The NZ Men’s Invitational team have managed a 54-50 win over the Silver Ferns on day two of the Cadbury Netball Series in Auckland on Thursday.
The unique inter-gender spectacle was the first ever to be held as an official match, and entertained a good crowd in at Bruce Pullman Stadium in South Auckland. The challenging prospect for the Silver Ferns was the height, speed and agility evident across the men’s team but, importantly, offering a diversity in style in helping their preparation towards next month’s Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Having to steer clear of using the high ball and adopting more movement and a shorter game plan, the Silver Ferns impressed with their ability to stay in touch against the unpredictable men’s style.
With Maria Folau and massive men’s shooter Junior Levi trading shots at either end, a late burst pushed the NZ Men out to a 15-11 lead at the first break.
Respective centres, captain Laura Langman and Kruze Tangira, playing against his idol, engaged in a thrilling individual contest with neither giving an inch while goalkeeper Matt Wetere had an impressive influence under the Silver Ferns hoop.
Against the odds, the defensive trio of Jane Watson, Phoenix Karaka and Karin Burger hauled the Silver Ferns back into contention. Slowing the NZ Men on attack while picking off turnover ball, helped the Silver Ferns finish the quarter with a three-goal run as they trimmed the deficit to 26-21 at halftime. Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes weathered the storm with some classy shooting, finishing with a three-goal run to take the honours for the quarter and narrow the lead to 37-35 in favour of the NZ Men at the last break.
However, then NZ Men kept feeding the ball to the seven foot Levi under the hoop, and held on to close out the game by four goals.
Both sides will most likely meet again in Sunday’s final of the Cadbury Netball Series, with the NZ Men due to play the All Stars and the Silver Ferns to play Fiji tonight.