Fiji pulled off an upset victory in their must-win match against Zimbabwe while three of the tournament favourites, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica, all recorded victories on the second day of action at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town – albeit not without some tough competition from their gutsy opponents.
ZIMBABWE 48-52 FIJI
Both Zimbabwe and Fiji were hungry for their first wins of the tournament after suffering opening day losses at the hands of Australia and Tonga respectively.
Playing against each other for the first time at a Netball World Cup, it was a tightly contested opening quarter. A run of five unanswered goals saw Zimbabwe pulling ahead at one point but the Fiji Pearls came back at them, effectively making use of the soon-to-be- outlawed short pass to eventually level matters at 11-11. By the first break, Zimbabwe had just edged ahead by two goals.
The second quarter was once again a neck-and-neck affair, Fiji levelling matters five minutes in and then taking a one-goal lead into the halftime break.
Fiji notched up another impressive scoring run towards the end of the third quarter to surge nine goals ahead at one point and didn’t look back from there. The Pearls opened their gap to 10 goals at one point, and while the Zimbabweans did rally in the final quarter, winning it 13-9, it was not enough to avoid the upset loss.
Speaking after the match, Fiji coach Unaisi Rokoura said: “We knew coming into today’s game it was do-or-die for us and each sub-unit in the team had specific goals and targets that they had to work on in different areas in terms of defensively, marking one on one and identifying the key player which is their goal attack and we shut her down.
“We knew Zimbabwe was going to come with a physical game and we had to be smarter and just play our own Fijian style of play which is keeping it short and simple and that’s what we did.”
After finishing with a 93 percent shooting average, Fijian goal attack Unaisi Raulani was named Most Valuable Player and said: “I feel very excited because this was a do-or-die game. We had to win this one to go to the next level.”
Asked what made the difference for her side today, Rokoura reckoned: “I think it was just teamwork and communication on court, and also being consistent in everything we did on court.”
An understandably disappointed Zimbabwe captain Felisitus Kwangwa said: “I can say honestly everyone is very sad, including me. We just had a terrible start [to the tournament as a team.
“We just couldn’t maximise on our opportunities that we got as a team and that’s why we ended up here where we are right now.”
Assistant coach Wisdom Shinya added: “We still have a long way to go, we still have our jobs to do ahead of tomorrow’s game against Tonga. We just need to come out from the two losses and step up and do what we should have done in the last two games.”
Q2: 25-26 (11-14)
Q3: 35-43 (10-17)
Q4: 48-52 (13-9)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Unaisi Raulani (Fiji)
NEW ZEALAND 54-44 UGANDA
World champions New Zealand survived a scare from Uganda for a 54-44 victory to record their second win at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town. The Silver Ferns have now won all four of their World Cup encounters against the She Cranes.
New Zealand were pushed to their limit in the first two quarters by their African opponents.
Centre Margret Baagala worked hard in mid-court to move the ball through to the Ugandan goal circle, providing enough good scoring opportunities for goal shooter Mary Cholhok. The Silver Ferns however were not to be outdone, with Grace Nweke standing tall in the circle on the other end of the court, making sure she landed her shots.
New Zealand went into halftime with a four-point lead, despite only having a third of the possession. It was their superior goal shooting, 92.3 per cent compared to Uganda’s 83.3 percent, that gave them the edge.
In the third quarter, Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua brought on the experience of Jane Watson, Gina Crampton and Te Paea Selby-Rickit to prevent the first upset of the World Cup. Watson and South African-born Karin Burger proved a lethal combination on defence, starving the She Cranes of crucial ball in their attempt to close the growing gap on the scoreboard.
Even though it was goal-for-goal scoring in the last five minutes of the match, the world champions outmuscled the She Cranes for a vital victory. Uganda will rue the chances they missed and not remaining calm under pressure to get the better of their more fancied opponents.
Baagala, who was the most valuable player in Friday’s victory over Singapore, played all four quarters for Uganda. She was once again a standout player for her.
Taurua credited her side’s strong defensive effort as an important part of the Silver Ferns’ victory.
“Our systems are set and we are fine-tuning what to do against certain opposition. I’m happy with how things are starting to settle and the progress we are making. That’s something we’ve discussed, that all 12 need to be ready in the combinations so that we can keep building and pose something different to the opposition.”
Despite the loss, Ugandan coach Fred Mugerwa said he believed his 15-player squad, of which 13 players are making their World Cup debuts, will be on top of the world at some point.
“As a country we have talents. The only problem is the lack of exposure. Apart from the few warm-up matches we had here in Cape Town, our only preparation back home was against men’s teams which were quite physical. Today we played our hearts out and we really wanted that win. Next time we shall do it.”
Q2: 25-21 (12-10)
Q3: 38-22 (13-11)
Q4: 54-44 (16-12)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Phoenix Karaka (New Zealand)
AUSTRALIA 84-38 TONGA
Boosted by their hard-fought victory over Fiji on the opening day of the tournament, the ever-improving Tonga team came out firing against 11-time Netball World Cup champions Australia in their Group A clash in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Tongans used their physicality to exert a good deal of pressure on the Diamonds, also matching their speed to ensure it was a tight first 15 minutes.
Taking on a team playing in just their second Netball World Cup and ranked six places below them in the world, the Australians would most probably have expected to be further ahead than 15-13 at the first break, but it was an impressive opening period for the Tongan Tala.
Aussie coach Stacey Marinkovich stuck with her starting seven in the second quarter and a 10-goal blitz at the start of the period saw the Diamonds pulling well ahead as normal order was restored.
Goal attack Steph Wood came on in the third quarter, so earning a 50 th cap for the Australians as Paige Hadley (WA), Jo Weston (GD), Sophie Garbin (GS) and Sunday Aryang (WD) also came off the bench.
As the game progressed, the Tongans seemed to run out of steam and their early intensity dissipated. They faced a 35-goal deficit by the final break and the Australians continued to dominate to wrap up an emphatic 84-38 win.
Jamie-Lee Price was named Most Valuable Player. Speaking afterwards about the number of turnovers in the first quarter of the match, she said: “Obviously it’s something we need to look at. We adjusted slowly in the first quarter, so I think it was just sticking to our gameplan – that’s all we needed to do, really and just adjust to what they were putting out there.”
Commenting on earning her 50 th cap for her country, Wood added: “It’s really special when you get to pull on the Australian dress, just to do it once is a goosebump moment but to think I’ve been able to play 50 games is something really special and something I’m really proud of.”
Tongan captain Hulita Veve said: “I think we came out firing. I think we had the energy and we came out to play hard. We just needed to work on our consistency in the second quarter and then we lost momentum, but we’ll go back and work on that one.”
Q2: 39-19 (24-6)
Q3: 63-28 (24-9)
Q4: 84-38 (22-10)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jamie-Lee Price
JAMAICA 75-40 WALES
Jamaica scored yet another big victory at the Netball World Cup 2023 when they beat Wales 75-40 in Cape Town. This after crossing the 100-mark against Sri Lanka on Friday. Their 105 was the highest score on day 1 while the winning margin (80) was the largest.
There are five positions between Jamaica (4) and Wales (9) on the latest world rankings and it clearly showed as the Sunshine Girls dominated all four quarters of the match. Jamaica’s combination of sharp attacking play and solid defence proved too formidable for their opponents.
The victory showcased Jamaica’s skill, teamwork and strategic execution. Shooters Romelda Aiken-George, Rebekah Robinson and captain Jhaniele Fowler displayed remarkable accuracy, converting more than 90 per cent of their chances. Additionally, defenders Shamera Stirling and Kadie-Ann Dehaney created several turnovers and disrupted the Welsh attacking flow effectively.
Fowler credited their success so far to the strength of the 12-player squad.
“Everyone is going out on court and doing their job and that’s what we need to for them to do, I’m very pleased with that,” she said.
“For tomorrow, I know South Africa is going to be coming hard at us. We just have to stick to our ground and play to the game plan.”
Welsh goalkeeper Ella Powell-Davies said their aim was to disrupt the space of the Jamaicans as much as they could.
“They are world-class players and we wanted to put as much pressure on the feed as we could in the circle. And when we got the disruption it was key that we took possession of that ball.
“Tomorrow is Sri Lanka and it is a game that we want to go out there and meet all our performance goals. We want to have a full 60-minute performance and hopefully we can achieve that tomorrow.”
Q2: 44-23 (21-12)
Q3: 58-29 (14-6)
Q4: 75-40 (17-11)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Shamera Sterling (Jamaica)