Producing a masterful performance, New Zealand were in a class of their own to despatch Australia 56-27 in the final of the FAST5 Netball World Series in Auckland on Sunday.
Coinciding with their power play, the defending champions exploded into life after a tight first half when they led 15-12. Becoming more adept with each outing of FAST5, Cathrine Latu got the power play rolling with maximum points from the three-point zone.
She added another before the game’s best three-point exponent Maria Tutaia got in on the act with a sensational show of long range shooting, converting three as the FAST5 Ferns piled on the points.
Australia did their best to restrict the influential Tutaia with a dogged defensive effort but the shooter’s silky skills helped the FAST5 Ferns to a commanding 49-19 lead ahead of Australia’s power play in the final quarter.
Ashleigh Brazill was a livewire and energetic performer for Australia both as a defender and a midcourter but the FAST5 Flyers could not find their range on the long shots in their desperate but unsuccessful bid to eat into the FAST5 Ferns challenging total.
The FAST5 Ferns were again defensively strong, captain Casey Kopua a towering figure under the hoop with her influential disrupting and rebounding ability as she led her team through an unbeaten tournament.
Australia could be pleased with their efforts to reach the final, their first, embracing the innovative concept of the abbreviated form of the game with a renewed approach after finishing last in 2012.
Bookending the court, twin towers Jhaniele Fowler (goal shoot) and Romelda Aiken (goalkeeper) inspired a decisive 44-17 win for Jamaica over South Africa to seal third place.
Both teams were strong from the two-point range early on, Jamaica turning at the first break with a slim 7-6 lead before unleashing a strong defensive effort during South Africa’s power play.
Restricting the Proteas to just eight points, the Sunshine Girls turned the screws in their own power player during the third quarter, Fowler proving an easy target as she piled on double points for her team, ably supported by Thristina Harwood.
With a 41-17 lead heading down the home straight, Jamaica took full control, the Proteas unable to convert a single shot in the final stanza.
The popular Malawi Queens ended their long tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji on a high when beating England 34-32 in the play-off for fifth.
It ended a disappointing tournament for England, previous strong performers in the abbreviated form of the game, slumping from the runners-up spot of last year to last in 2013.
England have never beaten Malawi at FAST5 and that trend continued today, the Queens enjoying strong crowd support as they showcased their full range of flamboyance and aerial skills.
Their star turn, shooter Mwai Kumwenda was a key figure, spending more time on court than any other player during the tournament in spearheading the ever-improving crowd-pleasers to a winning finish.
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