Silver Ferns beaten in netball's battle of the sexes
THE Silver Ferns have wound up their preparations for the World Cup with a loss to the New Zealand men's team in the final of a four-team tournament in Auckland.
In netball's version of the battle of the sexes, the men pulled clear in the second half on Saturday to prevail 66-54, two days after they'd won their first meeting 54-50.
The tournament gave coach Noeline Taurua's team the tough workout she was after, with the Silver Ferns having success in games against Fiji and a Kiwi All Stars side.
The two men's matches were challenging, against opponents who were bigger and more athletic than the leading women.
A prime example was 2.14m-tall Junior Levi, the Melbourne-based shooter who once captained the Australian men's team. Levi was a nightmare to shut down, sinking 56 goals.
At the other end, Maria Folau landed 40 from 43 shots in what was potentially her last big game on New Zealand soil.
Veteran shooter Folau, captain Laura Langman and former skipper Casey Kopua are all likely to retire following next month's World Cup in Liverpool.
New Zealand and Australia have contested the last five World Cup finals, with the Diamonds winning four of them.
However, the Silver Ferns' recent struggles have dropped them to fourth in the world rankings, behind Australia, Commonwealth Games champions England and Jamaica.