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NZ Men head to final unbeaten

The NZ Men completed a clean sweep when despatching a hard-working NZA 64-37 on day three of the Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North on Friday.

That followed wins over the Silver Ferns and NZU21s in the previous two days, dominant second and final quarters paving the way for the NZ Men to shut NZA out.

NZA fought valiantly but struggled in the shooting department under the constant pressure exerted by the all-round speed, athletic ability and finishing accuracy of their multi-talented opponents.

The hugely influential pair of giant shooter Junior Levi and skilled midcourter Kruze Tangira started from the bench for the NZ Men with Quintin Gerber and Daniel Jefferies getting the starting shooting spots.

For NZA, busy little midcourter Whitney Souness found herself facing the men for a second time in the space of 24 hours after fronting for the Silver Ferns against them the night before.

Early on, the changes appeared to have little effect on the NZ Men who quickly sprung out to a five-goal lead with defenders Jake Schuster and Joseph Tukaki putting NZA shooters Jamie Hume and Aliyah Dunn under all sorts or pressure.

Inspired by defender Kate Burley’s disruptive play while grabbing a couple of timely turnovers, NZA found their feet late in the piece. A run of six straight goals pushed them back into the contest when they belatedly nudged into a one-goal lead.

The hustle from Burley and her defensive partner Erena Mikaere continued before the NZ Men re-took the lead when edging to an 11-10 lead at the first break.

Big guns Tangira and Levi were introduced on the resumption with telling effect, the NZ Men going on to dominate the quarter while restricting NZA to just seven goals.

The pace of the game lifted immediately, the NZ Men impressing with their speed and through-court transition as plenty of ball found its way into Levi’s hands as his team out-scored NZA three goals to one during the stanza, the 2.14m shooter nonchalantly slotting 14 goals from 15 attempts.

The fleet-footed Souness and energetic Burley continued to work hard for NZA but could not prevent the NZ Men taking a decisive 32-17 lead at the main break.

With Kruze and Levi back on the bench, the third quarter followed a similar pattern to the first. NZA were able to compete on more even terms as they continued to provide hustle defensively with Oceane Maihi picking up from where Mikaere left off after replacing her at goalkeeper. Wing defence Kate Heffernan also caught the eye with her wholehearted performance throughout.

Goal attack Jamie Hume grew in confidence to shoot from range helping NZA to level-peg through the third 15 minutes, losing the quarter by just one goal but leaving the NZ Men handily-placed when leading 47-31 at the last break.

Both teams made multiple changes for the run home, Levi and Tangira showing their versatile skillsets when playing in the vastly different positions of goalkeeper and goal shoot, respectively without missing a beat.