The Silver Ferns edged closer to their first netball World Cup title in 12 years with a ruthless 50-39 semi-final win over England in Sydney on Saturday.
They extended their unbeaten record at the tournament to seven games and on Sunday will meet defending champions Australia, who beat Jamaica in their semi-final.
Coach Waimarama Taumaunu paid tribute to an outstanding defensive effort, after the New Zealanders piled on the first five goals in a dream start.
“Five goals in the first quarter – I thought it was a great defensive effort,” she said.
Every goal was a struggle for England in the first spell, with youthful goal attack Helen Housby almost completely shut out of the game and managing to sink just one shot from four.
“We thought they’d start Housby and we were quite keen to show her how young she is still,” Taumaunu said.
England struggled for timing in the front third. Casey Kopua and Katrina Grant picked up good quality turnover ball for shooters Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia to convert.
Tutaia shot impeccably, with her spectacular long bomb featuring prominently as she collected nine from nine to help the Silver Ferns out to an 11-5 lead after 15 minutes.
The introduction of the vastly experienced Pam Cookey for Housby in the second quarter proved key, with Cookey’s work up-court helping England’s ball security immensely.
“We worked really hard to stem the flow from the goal attack to the wing attack, and in the main we did that.”
Harten grew in confidence, sinking 10 from 10 as the Silver Ferns supply of turnover ball dried up.
They still took a 21-17 lead into halftime, but England were looking increasingly assured.
New Zealand wing defence Kayla Cullen took barely 30 seconds to shatter that growing confidence.
She pounced on a loose pass, Tutaia converted and within two minutes the Silver Ferns’ lead had doubled.
New Zealand’s defensive zone pushed England wide in their drive to the circle and the Kiwis were ruthless in punishing the resulting errors.
Ahead 37-27 at the three-quarter mark, and with Kopua and Leana de Bruin allowing England’s midcourt few options on the feed, the Silver Ferns maintained intensity for their most comprehensive win in Sydney to date.
England coach Tracey Neville said her team were largely responsible for their own demise, a huge turnaround from New Zealand’s last gasp 35-34 win at last year’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“I think we just punished ourselves – there were times in that game, particularly in that first quarter when we had numerous amounts of possession and we just didn’t capitalise on that.”
Missed shots, offside calls, poor footwork all proved costly.
“We cannot put that pressure on our defenders. There were times in that game we had to make changes, just because of the effect New Zealand were having on us.”