By Angela Habashy
New Zealand have posted their second straight win in the netball Quad Series, beating a gutsy England side 61-43 at Newcastle's Entertainment Centre on Wednesday.
The world No.2 side, who opened the inaugural series with a 63-27 thumping of South Africa on Sunday, would have expected much of the same against England on Wednesday - a team they'd beaten 73 times in their previous 78 meetings.
But the No.3-ranked England weren't going down without a fight, lifting after a sluggish start with Jo Harten making 27/32 shots and captain Pamela Cookey 16/18.
The Silver Ferns however were too strong with Maria Tutaia doing most of the damage with her almost perfect shooting netting 31/32 and legendary shooter Irene van Dyk doing her part after coming on in the send half with 20/20.
New Zealand again had the luxury of starting captain Casey Williams, who made her comeback from a 15-month injury layoff on Sunday, and van Dyk on the bench, bringing them on in the second half.
The Silver Ferns asserted their dominance early, racing to a 13-5 lead after the first quarter.
England's defensive line of Ebony Beckford Chambers, Serena Guthrie and Layla Guscoth were tasked with the unenviable job of stopping the powerful New Zealand attack.
They stepped things up in the second quarter though, going goal for goal to keep the gap at nine points to trail 26-17 at half-time.
England coach Anna Mayes switched centre Sara Bayman and wing defence Guthrie in the second quarter but Guthrie, with her quad heavily strapped, struggled in mid-court.
New Zealand lacked some of their trademark intensity in the third quarter while England turbo-charged their attack with Jo Harten posting 12 points and captain Pamela Cookey adding four to keep pace and bring the margin to 41-33 going into the final term.
But van Dyke and Tutaia where unstoppable in the final quarter, ravaging England's defence to finish the match strongly and run away with the 18-point win.
"I think we put a lead on in the first quarter and allowed England to come back, so that made it closer than it should have been," Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu said.
"I think our third quarter attack was good, it was just our defensive game in that quarter that we needed to sort out.
"Our defensive pressure had really dropped off in that third quarter but they really got things back on track in that final quarter."