England completed possibly the biggest
turnaround in netball history with an astonishing 40-38 win over New
Zealand in Wednesday night’s second test at Dunedin’s Edgar Centre.

After a craven 26-65 capitulation against New Zealand in Auckland
on Monday, the only way was up for England in the second test of the
three-match series.

And they responded with grit and style, holding the Silver Ferns
to 9-9 after 15 minutes and digging in deep in the second quarter to
trail 17-21 at halftime.

It was a different English team on court, a faster-paced, more
focused and more motivated outfit.

Their midcourt put far more pressure on the Silver Ferns attack,
and their defence, boosted by the return of Geva Mentor at goal
keep, kept New Zealand’s shooting circle under constant pressure.

But the big difference from Monday’s feeble England effort came
in their work off the ball. Players were holding their space with
more conviction, then moving into space at pace. The result was
obvious after just 15 minutes, with the scores tied 9-9 at the end
of the first quarter.

Both teams were guilty of turning over the ball, largely as a
result of some intense midcourt defence, exemplified perhaps by
Silver Ferns wing defence Joline Henry whose work-rate and
anticipation resulted in numerous tips and intercepts.

New Zealand coach Ruth Aitken’s opening line-up had a fresh look
about it, with newcomer Katrina Grant earning her first start in a
Silver Ferns bib at goal defence.

Star midcourter Laura Langman was initially rested as Maree
Bowden came in at wing attack, while Irene van Dyk again shifted
upcourt to goal attack with Daneka Wipiiti starting at goal shoot.

England were boosted by the return of Mentor from an ankle injury
but coach Sue Hawkins basically stuck with the line-up which
struggled so much two days earlier.

Mentor’s combination with Sonia Mkoloma at the back put huge
pressure on Wipiiti and van Dyk in the circle, and New Zealand
midcourters Maree Bowden and captain Julie Seymour had to work the
ball round – and back – constantly in an effort to find a path in.

Down 17-21 at halftime, the English came out blazing in the third
quarter, sinking five unanswered goals to take the lead with barely
three minutes of the spell gone.

Sheryl Scanlan came on for Grant at halftime, and Bowden made way
for the inspirational Laura Langman at wing attack, but the Silver
Ferns just weren’t allowed to fire as England ramped up the pressure
even further.

The combination between centre Jade Clarke and veteran wing
attack Karen Atkinson grew in confidence as the game progressed, and
shooters Louisa Brownfield and Pamela Cookey relished the quality
feeding into the circle to put England ahead 30-29 at the break.

Aitken benched the erratic Wipiiti, who sunk an ordinary 15 from
23, at three-quarter time and brought Maria Tutaia on at goal shoot.

But in the end, not even Tutaia could arrest the English momentum
and the English completed a famous victory.