From the outset there was a vast difference between teams in control and dictation of space – New Zealand always knowing where to position their opponents in defense to force errors including two clumsy offsides, or in attack to draw obstructions for holding.

The Kiwis zipped out to a 4-0 lead in two minutes before Fiji could craft their first goal. Fiji steadied their ship by using better preliminary moves and timing on the drive in attack, but still resorted to risky long balls too often.

 

Starting lineups

New Zealand
GS
 Maia Wilson
GA Tiana Metuarau
WA Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
C Charlotte Elley
WD Fa’Amu Ioane
GD Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
GK Kelly Jury
Bench Aliyah Dunn, Abby Erwood, Monica Falkner, Kimiora Poi, Kate Lloyd
Coach Kiri Wills

Fiji
GS
 Rusivakula
GA Visili Tavui
WA Waqainabete
C Ana Moi
WD Annabella Sorby
GD Verenaisi Sawana
GK Episake Kahatoka
Bench Lydia Panapasa, Laisani Waqa, Aliti Toribau, Alisi Galo, Waqanidrola
Coach Vicki Wilson

Umpires – Tara Warner, Allison Davies

 

In contrast, the quick release of New Zealand throughout the court was dynamite, especially to Wilson behind on the baseline. Incredible athleticism from Michaela Sokolich-Beatson brought the ball through from the backline with pace and security, and the whole team had excellent drives to receive strong, long, flat passes, utilising the whole width of the court. The junior Ferns were ahead 21-8 at quarter time.

Fiji started the second quarter with Waqa at GA, Toribau at WA and Waqanidrola joining at GD. They employed some islander flair, double plays from centre to shooter, a stylish rebound, and one of the fastest break-throughs of a Kiwi zone that has ever been seen, with exciting long shots. In fact it was either a clear tactic or a habit of Fiji to use the longest ball possible from defensive goal third over one transverse line almost across the next, which did not always come off well.

Despite running with their opponents in the early stages of the quarter, Fiji had somewhat of a meltdown thereafter – defenders not moving their feet and always in chase mode, never able to dictate space in defense or attack, and the Kelly Jury blocking any foray to goal.

Fiji couldn’t free themselves easily and resorted to longer straight leads, pushed into sidelines and congested spaces – they trailed 19-38 at the main break.

New Zealand brought Poi into C for the start of the second half, while Fiji used Panapasa at GS and Tavui came back on at GA, Waqainabete changed to C and Galo joined at WD. The timing of Silver Fern Maia Wilson’s moves continued to be a delight and she piled on more goals from the left-hand side near the post. Her team had a near-perfect conversion rate for centre passes and possession gains as the match felt like a training run at times. In the middle part there were some miscommunications in attack leading to turnovers that would be punished in the grand final showdown to come with Australia.

During a sudden injury exchange Tiana Metuarau left the court for New Zealand with Monica Falkner joining at GA. Fiji started to lag again, not cutting the front in the forward line and chasing at the back, and with that the margin ballooned with every earned intercept from the zone. It was just too easy for the polished reigning World Cup holders – the Kiwis were wide awake to any lax pass or open channel and ran into the final change ahead 59-24.

Kiri Wills used all her bench players, bringing Dunn to GS and Erwood to GK in the final term. Their line gave no respite, as the Fijians casual and exhausted moves were always chased down by their well-drilled opponents. With the ladies in blue already making their highest ever finish in the Netball World Youth Cup at either third or fourth, the New Zealanders romped home and earned a chance to defend their title.

 

New Zealand 79 def Fiji 28
Player of the Match:
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (New Zealand)

 

Twitter: @NetballDrewski