Photo supplied / Michael Bradley Photography
New Zealand was given a testing workout before coming home strongly to post a 53-40 win over Uganda in their second match of the Commonwealth Games netball tournament in Birmingham.
"I thought it was a fantastic game, they played really well,’’ New Zealand coach Dame Noeline Taurua said after her team ground out the win against sixth-ranked Uganda.
According to a Netball NZ match report, the world champion New Zealanders were restricted to just eight goals in the third quarter after Uganda injected shooter Mary Cholhok into the action. She sparked an exciting and inspiring 15 minutes which left New Zealand battling to stem the flow.
"There were a few newbies out there for us but it’s not until you’re actually out there that you understand the unorthodox way that they play and I’m actually quite happy. There were a lot of lessons that we learnt out there," Dame Noeline said.
"These are experiences that they’ve got to be able to take on, so to grind that through and have that pressure was really good for us this early in the tournament. Overall, there are massive upsides for us from what this game and a good Uganda team provided.’’
Following their opening 79-20 win over Northern Ireland, New Zealand again made plenty of changes in testing a variety of combinations with usual shooter Bailey Mes also getting some late minutes at wing attack.
The re-introduction of New Zealand’s own shooting weapon Grace Nweke, who converted 32 from 37 for her three-quarters on court, and the height of Kate Heffernan (wing defence) and Kelly Jury (goalkeeper) helped right the ship for a strong last-quarter finish.
Pacing themselves, the New Zealanders built a buffer midway through the opening stanza, Nweke finding her groove under the hoop in tandem with Te Paea Selby-Rickit, playing in her 50th test, as Uganda struggled to contain the shooting pair.
Patient with the ball, Uganda produced a strong finishing surge with playmaking goal attack Irene Eyaru, the smallest player in the circle, taking the bulk of the shooting ahead of her more well-known partner and captain Peace Proscovia to bring the team right back into the mix.
It was New Zealand who took a narrow 14-11 lead into the first break.
With Maia Wilson injected at goal attack, Sulu Fitzpatrick (goal defence) and Kayla Johnson (wing defence), New Zealand delivered a strong second stanza.
Uganda remained unchanged but struggled with their shooting accuracy where the height of Jury proved a disruptive influence.
With Wilson creating plenty of openings with her movement at the attacking end and more opportunities on offer for New Zealand, a five-goal unanswered burst provided a level of comfort.
Restricting Uganda to just seven goals, New Zealand pushed out to a healthy 31-18 lead at the main break.
The introduction of Uganda’s tallest player, Cholhok changed the dynamics during a momentum-shifting third quarter.
New Zealand made changes at both ends of the court with Mes taking on the goal attack role and Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka pairing at the defensive end but were rocked early by the influence of Cholhok.
The New Zealanders were restricted to just two goals in the first seven minutes while Uganda did a fine job of narrowing the gap, Cholhok nailing 11 from 12 as the shorter New Zealand defence pairing struggled to contain her movement and height.
Kept on their toes, New Zealand weathered the storm to hold Uganda at arm’s length but were restricted with their scoring opportunities, losing the quarter but maintaining a 39-29 lead at the last turn.
New Zealand will play Malawi in their third pool match at 7am on Tuesday, August 2 (NZ time).
New Zealand: 53
Shooting Stats - New Zealand
Maia Wilson 14/15 (93%)
Grace Nweke 32/37 (86%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 7/8 (88%)
Shooting Stats - Uganda
Mary Nuba Cholhok 19/22 (86%)
Irene Eyaru 16/21 (76%)
Proscovia Peace 5/8 (63%)