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FAST5 Ferns: Challenging opening day for young FAST5 Ferns team

A new-look FAST5 Ferns face an uphill battle to retain their FAST5 Netball World Series title after losing two of their opening day matches in Melbourne today.

Winners for the last four years, the FAST5 Ferns entered this tournament as the most inexperienced of the six top teams contesting the event with half the squad playing the shortened version of the game for the first time.

Posting a win and a loss in their first two matches, the FAST5 Ferns were desperate to post a positive result over arch rivals Australia in the last match of the day but the home team produced a defining power play through the shooting efforts of Gretel Tippett and Kaylia Stanton.

The New Zealanders could not match the finishing touches of Australia from the super shot zone or the intensity of the hosts who went on to win 40-30.

But there were plenty of positive signs for the young New Zealand team, soaking in the atmosphere, colour and vibrancy of the fun version of netball for the first time.

Just four months after the birth of her first child, silky-smooth shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio made a return to international netball in style, leading the way with her ability to shoot from range and all-round purposeful play, Temalisi Fakahokotau and captain Storm Purvis were industrious and effective defensive toilers while shooter Jamie Hume and the versatile Kayla Cullen all added impact.

A vastly experienced England and Jamaica emerged as strong title contenders after finishing the day unbeaten, the FAST5 Ferns needing other results to go their way tomorrow to stay in contention.

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Earlier, the FAST5 Ferns produced an impressive second outing to claim a 40-26 win over South Africa.

With the hot hand of Ekenasio starting proceedings on a high with three two-pointers and defenders Fakahokotau and Purvis picking off turnover ball, the FAST5 Ferns turned up the heat during South Africa’s second quarter power play.

On the back of great transitional play, Maia Wilson chimed in with a couple of two-pointers as the FAST5 Ferns did an excellent job of restricting the Proteas who could make little progress.

Ekenasio got New Zealand’s power play off to the best possible start with a maximum six-pointer as the FAST5 Ferns took a firm grip on the game.

Charmaine Baard found her long-range radar for South Africa but an 18-point third quarter haul was enough to keep the FAST5 Ferns in the box seat.

The youthful FAST5 Ferns had a challenging first-up clash against a well-drilled England but were well in the contest heading into the last quarter.

Ekenasio signalled her return to international netball in style by sinking two and three-point shots with her first two attempts.

She was just as effective in the FAST5 Ferns second quarter power player with two four-point shots and one maximum six-pointer but the New Zealanders could not overcome the defensive squeeze England applied in the run home.

With big game players Jo Harten and Geva Mentor rising to the challenge, England sealed their first-ever FAST5 win over the New Zealanders with a well-executed 37-30 opening result.