Sunshine Girls succumb to Silver Ferns in cracking contest

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Photo: Sunshine Girls huddle (file photo)

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls succumbed to tournament favourites, the New Zealand Silver Ferns 55-48 on Tuesday, as action got underway in the second round of the Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia.

Jamaica held a vital three goal half time lead at 27-24 but was unable to resist the second half onslaught of the former champs in a fiercely contested match.

Jamaica began the game with the surprise defensive pair of Vangalee Williams and Stacian Facey while team captain Nicole Aiken-Pinnock was relegated to the bench. The usual attack of Romelda Aiken (41/44) and Shanice Beckford (7/9) matched their more fancied opponents stride for stride in the opening salvo with Beckford finding her range quickly as the score read 4-4 early on.

The Silver Ferns took the lead at 5-4 and went on a run to build up a 10-5 lead as the defensive pair of Williams and Facey struggled to cope with Maria Tutaia (29/26) and Bailey Mes (18/23).

But the Jamaicans refused to be shaken and clawed their way back after an injury time out. They found a way to get the outstanding Romelda Aiken into the match with long balls over the New Zealand defence.

The first quarter ended with the Silver Ferns leading 14-11.

Jamaica went on a 5-2 run to start the second quarter, drawing the match level at 16-16. By then the New Zealand team realized they were in for a real contest.

With Williams, Facey and Sasher-Gaye Henry defending better and Aiken receiving the ball with ease from the always dangerous Paula Thompson as well as the wily Khadijah Williams, Jamaica battled their opponents fiercely before taking their first lead since the opening minutes at 22-21 with just over 3 minutes remaining in the half. They managed to build up a three goal half time lead as Aiken hit shot after shot to the delight of the partisan crowd who cheered on the underdogs.

But the third quarter hoodoo continued to haunt the Jamaicans as they lost control of the game in this period . Two costly turnovers in a row allowed the Silver Ferns to cut the gap to 33-32 before they leveled the game at 35-35.

The teams traded points before New Zealand went ahead at 37-36 and went on to close out the quarter at 40-37, a six goal turnaround in a very physical contest.

Battling bravely and showing true Jamaican spirit, the Sunshine Girls clawed their way back into the contest yet again closing the gap in the fourth quarter to 42-41 and forcing their opponents to take a time out.

The experience of the Silver Ferns showed after the stoppage as they went on another run to build up a six goal lead at 50-44. Fatigue started to show on the Jamaicans with turnovers playing a huge part in the game slipping away from them.

In the end New Zealand ran out deserved winners, but the Jamaicans will have learnt lessons that should serve them well later on in the tournament.