The NZ U21 netball team have claimed their fourth Netball World Youth Cup title after defeating Australia in the final with a 60-57 win in Botswana early this morning.
It’s the first time New Zealand has won back to back titles in the competition, defending their title from 2013 in Scotland.
The strong squad of twelve went undefeated throughout the competition, perhaps a testament to the introduction of New Zealand’s new ANZ Premiership competition, of which six players from the squad participated. But their Trans-Tasman rivals didn’t give it to them easily, stealing an early lead in the first quarter at 17-14.
New Zealand narrowed the margins again in the second quarter with Maia Wilson sharp on the hoop, and the defensive pairing of Kelly Jury and Captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson putting on the pressure in the Australian circle, 28-27 to Australia at halftime.
New Zealand shot out to a six-goal advantage in the third spell with the dynamic midcourt pairing of Reuelu-Buchanan and Kimiora Poi driving the ball forward to find their shooters ready under the hoop. In a desperate attempt to regain control, Australia replaced shooter Sasha Glasgow for the towering Emma Ryde. But it was to no avail, New Zealand stretching out their lead, 45-41.
A frantic Australia managed to narrow the margins in the final quarter but there was no getting past Silver Ferns Jury and Wilson.