The Net Blacks dug deep against a determined Australian Kelpies side to draw first blood in the men’s FAST5 Netball World Series opener, winning 42-29.
Dominating play in the first two quarters set the Net Blacks up for the win and defender Kruze Tangira, who was playing in his first FAST5 series, said, despite a few nerves, he was pleased with the result for the Kiwi side.
Tangira, who picked up six gains for his side, said his lungs were tested over the four six-minute spell as the Australian Kelpies came at his team hard in the second half.
“It’s been a year since I played at this level and I was a bit nervous coming into this game because it has been so long,” he said.
“But the crowd was amazing, and the atmosphere was so exciting and just to feed off the home fans to get us over the line is exactly what we needed.”
Tangira said the Net Blacks knew they needed a strong start against the might of Australia, and they worked hard to stick to their game plan when their rivals fought back in the second half.
“We know how phenomenal they are so our key was to start strongly and just maintain that lead,” he said. “It was getting a bit nerve wracking when they were pulling that scoreline back, but I’m just so thankful that we could get over the line today.”
In the twilight of his career, Tangira admitted that FAST5 was something he wanted to “tick off my list” and he was enjoying the atmosphere at Wolfbrook Arena in Christchurch and the chance to play both Australia and a young South African team.
The Net Blacks raced out to a 10-4 first quarter advantage with MVP Thomson Matuku keeping the score ticking over with his confidence to turn to the post.
The team’s defensive strength throughout the court kept the pressure on the Kelpies and their ability to score the one and two-pointers allowed them some breathing space over their fierce rivals.
But the Kelpies lifted the intensity in a willing second spell before a six-point play from Matuku gave the Net Blacks a healthy 20-9 lead at halftime.
Only two points separated the teams in a physical third quarter, but the Net Blacks maintained their composure to turn into the final spell with a 31-18 advantage.
Meanwhile, Australia had earlier fought back to beat South Africa 50-39, producing a big third quarter and a strong finish to avoid an upset.