New Zealand were given a testing workout before coming home strongly to post a 53-40 win over a spirited Uganda in their second match of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games netball tournament on Saturday.
In what was a bigger test for New Zealand, against sixth-ranked Uganda, there were adjustments needed for the different style and competitiveness of their opponents following an opening 79-20 win over Northern Ireland.
The world champion New Zealanders were given food for thought when restricted to just eight goals in the third quarter after the She Cranes injected the dynamic Mary Cholhok into the action. The lofty shooter sparked an exciting and inspiring 15 minutes from Uganda which left New Zealand battling to stem the flow.
“I thought it was a fantastic game, they (Uganda) played really well,’’ New Zealand coach Dame Noeline Taurua said.
“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.
“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.’’
Again, New Zealand 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 from Africa 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) whilst Uganda plays their second game today, Sunday against hosts England.
*Credit: silverferns. co.nz