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Latest Junior Ferns match report 2
Junior Ferns Down Fiji In Wintry Conditions
by Jeremy Ruane
New Zealand's Junior Ferns overcame decidedly inclement conditions to conquer Fiji 9-1 and take a stranglehold on the OFC U-19 Women's Championship at Ngahue Reserve on July 14.

With a bitingly cold southerly at their backs during the opening forty-five minutes, Gareth Turnbull's charges set about their task with gusto, and after early range-finders were fired by Emma Main and Hannah Blake, they opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

Michaela Foster won a header for Jacqui Hand's benefit, and her low cross wasn't cleared, allowing Blake to swoop and fire home the opener via an upright two minutes before her barnstorming run down the right was rewarded by Grace Jale's measured pass.

That tripped the Fijian offside trap, something which the Junior Ferns often fell foul of in this encounter, and allowed Blake to make in-roads into the penalty area before setting up Main. Her fancy flick was foiled by a Fijian defender, but Dayna Stevens was following in to give New Zealand a 2-0 lead just six minutes into the contest.

Soon after Blake had timed her run well to meet a measured Nicole Mettam pass, only to be forced to shoot wide by approaching Fijian goalkeeper Ateca Tuwa, the Junior Ferns increased their lead still further in the thirteenth minute, with Blake latching onto a loose ball before presenting Hand with a one-on-one opportunity she finished stylishly.

After Foster curled home a delightful fourth goal via a twenty yard free-kick in the twentieth minute, the Junior Ferns pounded away in search of a fifth goal in the next few minutes.

Main was thwarted by Tuwa's fine one-handed save after Foster and Hand had linked up on the left, while Stevens thrashed a shot past the post prior to the flying figure of Jale just failing to get on the end of a Main cross to the far post, following a Foster corner.

In the 26th minute, Hand was denied a goal by the offside flag after inspiring a move which saw Tuwa save at the feet of both Stevens and Blake in quick succession - the Fijian custodian was certainly a courageous character, and quite adept in dealing with the ball in the air as well, with many a New Zealand cross ending up in her hands.

Seven minutes later, Jale headed narrowly wide after Foster and Hand had once again combined to good effect on the left flank. Seconds later, a delightful interchange of passes between Foster, Mettam, Blake and Jale culminated in the last-mentioned unleashing a thirty yarder which Tuwa did well to hang onto, particularly with Stevens darting in in anticipation of the 'keeper spilling the ball.

Tuwa then saved in unorthodox fashion at the feet of Blake after Claudia Bunge had picked out the goal-hungry striker, whose 36th minute pass presented Hand with a great chance to set up Stevens for a goal. Her pass lacked conviction, however, much to Hand's frustration.

Fiji hadn't featured as an attacking threat to this point in the match, but seven minutes before half-time they ventured downfield and exposed some defensive chinks on New Zealand's right flank.

Captain Luisa Tamanitoakula got in behind Saskia Vosper before picking out Cema Nasau with a cross which the winger headed across the face of goal - a warning shot across the Junior Ferns' bows which wasn't heeded, as things turned out.

The host nation's response to this threat on their goal was to uncork a cracking move which brought about the game's fifth goal. Jale and Blake's slick passing interchange played Main in with just Tuwa to beat, and the striker calmly rounded the 'keeper before rolling the ball into the empty net.

Half-time arrived, and with it a weather change, for the worse. When the teams emerged for the second half, it was wet, bleak and bitingly cold, with the exposed nature of Ngahue Reserve offering no respite or shelter for anyone, native or visitor alike.

Truth be told, the second half presented some of the most challenging conditions this writer can recall working in in over thirty years' involvement in women's football - not quite up there with Christchurch's Cuthbert's Green in 1996, where it was frigid beyond belief
Jacqui Hand


Michaela Foster


Saskia Vosper


Hannah Blake


Rebecca Lake


Dayna Stevens
throughout the National Tournament, but definitely in the top five.

The Junior Ferns were playing into the teeth of these conditions in the second half of this match, and after Hand and Blake drew saves from Tuwa inside the first three minutes of action, notched up goal number six in the 55th minute, Blake battering the ball home after debutant Emma Clarke had combined with Jale and Mettam for the prolific striker's benefit.

Clarke's fellow half-time substitute, Sammi Tawharu, squandered a great chance four minutes later, lifting the ball over the bar from six yards after the influential figure of Mettam had combined with the overlapping figure of Foster to expose Fiji's right flank yet again.

After Blake had thrashed an eighteen-yarder over the bar following a partially cleared Foster corner, Fiji stunned the Junior Ferns by reducing the deficit in the 64th minute.

The goal was solely down to the brilliance of Nasau, who took full advantage of Clarke's failure to stay on her feet when looking to tackle her, exploiting to the full the space left by the fullback before scything across Jale's challenge and thrashing a shot past the diving figure of Junior Ferns captain Anna Leat and in off the inside of the near post from fifteen yards - a fine solo goal, conditions notwithstanding.

To say the Junior Ferns were miffed at conceding is something of an understatement. Rightly so, too. Throughout the forty-five years in which women's football has been part of the fabric of this country, there are a handful of unwritten tenets which have driven the game, particularly at international level.

Not conceding in matches against our Pacific Island neighbours is one of them.

This was just the tenth occasion since New Zealand's international women's football debut in 1975 that the nation's goal-line has been breached by one of the island nations, with Fiji's only other goal coming in an Oceania Nations Cup clash in 1983.

Knowing the late Roy Cox, the founding father of women's football in New Zealand, as well as this writer did, it's safe to say his reaction to this statistic would be very much along the lines of, "That's ten too many!" And he'd definitely be growling when saying it, believe me, for this was a standard on which he placed great store. As does this writer.

Swiftly restoring their six-goal advantage was uppermost in the minds of the Junior Ferns in the immediate aftermath of conceding, and after Tuwa had saved at the feet of Jale - Mettam and Blake combined to play their team-mate in, Tawharu made it 7-1 from the penalty spot in the 69th minute, following a foul on Bunge.

Two minutes later, it was 8-1, Stevens and Hand combined to play in Tawharu, who held off a defender before firing home unerringly beyond Tuwa, who saved a second penalty from Tawharu seven minutes later, this one arising from a handball offence by Asenaca Diranuve.

The final ten minutes saw the Junior Ferns laying siege to the Fijian goal, with Blake and Tawharu particularly prominent in this regard as each sought a hat-trick. The former was denied on three occasions by Tuwa, while the half-time substitute was also thwarted once, likewise Stevens at the death.

They did manage one more goal, however, Stevens beating Tuwa all ends up at her near post in the 83rd minute to wrap up a 9-1 victory in conditions far from conducive to playing or watching. Hopefully those to be experienced against New Caledonia from 12.30pm on Monday will prove far more user-friendly.

In other Matchday Two action, Papua New Guinea pummelled New Caledonia 7-0, with Nicollete Ageva scoring four of them, while a late equaliser earned Tonga a 1-1 draw with Samoa.

Junior Ferns:     Leat; Vosper (Clarke, 46), Lake, Bunge, Foster; Mettam, Blake, Jale; Main (Tawharu, 46), Stevens, Hand
Fiji:          Tuwa; Waqanidrola, Nainima, Tora, Ranadi; Vuniyayawa, Likuculacula, Senisea (Hussein, 76), Diranuve, Nasau; Tamanitoakula
Referee:     Tapaita Lelenga (Tonga)
Ateca Tuwa
Emma Clarke
Sammi Tawharu
Anna Leat
Claudia Bunge
Cema Nasau
Mereoni Tora
Jacqui Hand gives Timaima Vuniyayawa the slip
Michaela Foster challenged by Timaima Vuniyayawa
Grace Jale
Don't look back in anger! Ateca Tuwa turns round to see Michaela Foster's free-kick hitting the net
Asenaca Diranuve
Sammi Tawharu slots home from the penalty spot past Ateca Tuwa



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