The targeting of Maria Tutaia has proven hugely influential for England in wrapping up a 49-46 second Test win over the Silver Ferns in Napier.
Maria Tutaia lines up a shot against South Africa.
After winning the first Taini Jamison Trophy Test 62-65 in Wellington last week, New Zealand faltered at Pettigrew Green Arena on Sunday as England levelled the series 1-1 going into Wednesday's decider in Hamilton.
The vastly experienced Tutaia, who has amassed 110 caps for New Zealand since her 2005 debut, was shut down by an outstanding effort from England defenders Ama Agbeze and Geva Mentor.
The 30-year-old shooter was on court for only a tick over two quarters, managing to convert just eight of her 16 attempts before she was replaced by Te Paea Selby-Rickit early in the third stanza.
It was a stark contrast to Tutaia's first Test showing three days earlier, where she was lethal from long range in sinking 31 from 37.
Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby says her vice-captain's sub-par display was unusual.
"I think it was uncharacteristic from her, and I know she'll certainly be having a really good look at what it was," she said.
"Bailey and Teeps stepped up again and they worked really hard to get that movement in the circle, but unfortunately it just didn't click for us."
Agbeze says Tutaia's influence in New Zealand's first Test win had been crucial, and she had worked hard with Mentor to try and negate that in Napier.
"We worked a lot on trying to get into her head, get her out of the zone, and I guess we succeeded," Agbeze said.
"When she's in the zone, she gets the ball and turns and shoots from anywhere.
"It's not necessarily about her missing shots, but actually making her wary of going to the post.
"When you get in her head, she'll get the ball and she'll look to pass or look to see what else she can do."
Agbeze and Mentor are both mobile and agile defenders, with superb reactions and quick hands, and worked hard to fill the circle and shut down Tutaia.
"We managed to cover lots of space, and be quite deceptive - not be so tight on the body, so it's easy to read the space," Agbeze said.
Just how Tutaia comes back from being so comprehensively outplayed will play a big part in New Zealand's chances of a series win in three days.
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