Wales claimed their first victory of the Netball World Cup 2023 to safely negotiate their way through to the second stage of the preliminaries while there were comfortable wins for Malawi, defending champions New Zealand, and Australia on the third day of matches at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
WALES 68-56 SRI LANKA
With both Wales and Sri Lanka chasing a first victory of the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town, there was plenty to play for when the two sides went head-to-head in their final Group C clash on Sunday.
On the line was a place in the second stage of the preliminaries with only the top three teams in each pool progressing. And it was the Welsh Feathers who got the job done with a 68-56 victory.
While the Sri Lankans stayed within striking distance for much of the opening quarter, some great intercepts from the Welsh ensured they edged ahead, taking a six-goal advantage into the first break.
Midway through the second quarter, the match was halted for close to eight minutes after Sri Lankan wing attack Dulangi Wannithilake received a blow to the stomach from a Welsh player’s knee and became physically ill on the side of the court.
When play resumed, Wales managed to pick up where they left off, Ella Powell-Davies and Christina Shaw doing exceptionally well on defence for their side to open the gap to head into halftime 30-22 up.
The tallest player in the tournament 2.06m Tharjini Sivalingam came on at goal shooter after the break and made all the difference, with the Sri Lankans producing their highest-scoring quarter. Incredibly Wannithilake also returned to action at wing attack.
But a 10-goal gap by the end of the period proved too much to close and with goal shooter Georgia Rowe completing a near-flawless performance in the Wales circle with 49 goals from 50 attempts, the Feathers wrapped up the crucial 68-56 victory.
Powell-Davies was named Most Valuable Player and said: “It’s so, so good – a massive boost of confidence for this squad. We’ve had a tough couple of games and Sri Lanka really brought it to us today. It was super tough out there, but to get the win it’s a massive boost and we’re looking forward to going through to the next group.
Sri Lanka coach Thilaka Jinadasa said: “The girls did well today overcoming these big losses in our last two matches.”
Speaking about Wannithilake’s injury, Jinadasa added: “She will hopefully be OK. She’ll be taken to the doctor to be checked. She’s a very strong character so I’m sure she will be OK.
“She is a very fast wing attack for us in our starting seven so I have more confidence with her and I knew she was a strong character and could come back and she proved it again today.”
Q2: 30-22 (13-11)
Q3: 50-40 (20-18)
Q4: 68-56 (18-16)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Ella Powell-Davies (Wales)
AUSTRALIA 101-32 FIJI
With 18 places separating them in the latest world rankings, a comprehensive victory for Australia (1) over Fiji (19) was all but guaranteed. The world’s top-ranked team is yet to lose a quarter at the Netball World Cup 2023. This was the second 100-goal score of the World Cup, Australia’s third in all World Cups and the 15 th overall.
It was the Diamonds’ fifth World Cup victory over the Pearls. Outside of the tournament, they also have had the better of their opponents in three other international matches.
Fiji got proceedings underway with Maliana Rusivakula landing the first shot. It didn’t take long for Cara Koenen to return the favour at the other of the court for Australia.
Fiji, fresh off their upset win over Zimbabwe on Saturday, managed to hang on for the first five minutes of the game. Australia however found their rhythm and started building up a healthy lead. The ease with which they were moving led to attractive attacking play for which their opponents had no answer.
Fiji head coach Unaisi Rokoura, who played in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, brought on Lydia Panapasa as goal shooter with Rusivakula moving to goal attack for the second quarter. Josephine Nailumu (goal defence) and Ana Moi (wing defence) also took to court in an effort to stem the relentless Aussie attack. The Australian team remained unchanged.
Even though the possession was evenly distributed in the first half, with a superior goal shooting percentage, Australia had a firm grip on the game. They went into the break 46-18 in the lead.
When the third quarter started, it was a new-look Australian team who assumed position with Ash Brazill the only player yet to make an appearance in the game. Goal shooter Sophie Garbin fired off three shots in quick succession, and another five soon after, to take the wind out of Fiji’s sails.
Australia racked up 26 points in the third quarter and followed it up with 29 in the final 15 minutes of the match, their highest over three days of play.
Goalkeeper Courtney Bruce earned her second award as Most Valuable Player for another stellar performance on defence. She got eight intercepts and caused several deflections to turn the ball back toward her team’s goal circle.
Commenting on the rest of the tournament and how they want to progress, Australian coach Stacey Marinkovich said her team have their eyes set on the other teams.
“As we’ve gone on along the journey, the focus has been on how we get our game going in terms of performance and style, compared to the other teams,” she said.
“So certainly we’ll talk about what we see and what they bring to the table. The draw is what it is. That is one of the challenges of a world cup, you’ve got to bring your game on the day and learn in the moment and adapt.”
Despite the heavy loss, Fiji captain Maria Lutua-Rusivakula said their main goal was to give all the players some time on court.
“In that aspect we did what we wanted to do, even though the result doesn’t really show it. We are progressing all the time and we want to go forward by making the little things count. For now, we are taking it one day at a time,” she said.
Q2: 48-18 (23-9)
Q3: 72-27 (26-9)
Q4: 101-32 (29-5)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Courtney Bruce (Australia)
NEW ZEALAND 80-19 SINGAPORE
Defending champions New Zealand closed out their Group D matches with a comprehensive 80-19 victory over the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Singapore.
Having beaten the same opposition by 68 goals at the last World Cup in Liverpool four years ago, few would have expected anything other than another win for the Silver Ferns when the two sides faced off again on Sunday.
While the Singapore side are speedy and produced a promising start, they were outgunned in all departments, scoring seven goals in the first quarter and just two in the second as New Zealand took firm control.
The Silver Ferns shooters had no mercy on Singapore goal keeper Jamie Lim on her 23rd birthday, racing to a 32-goal lead by halftime.
Once again the Singaporeans’ inaccurate goal shooting cost them with neither shooter averaging over the 55 per cent mark.
While New Zealand had little trouble in sailing to the 80-19 victory, of some concern will be the condition of goal shooter Grace Nweke who appeared to limp off the court in the third quarter and was seen icing her knee on the sidelines.
Despite the comfortable victory, New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua felt there was plenty of room for improvement.
“I’m not actually entirely happy, I thought we were able to get a lot of ball and I think our attention to detail in some respects wasn’t on point,” she said afterwards.
“I feel today we went a bit backwards, especially when we had ball in hand. The quality wasn’t as good as expected.”
Asked about Nweke’s knee, Taurua added: “At the moment the call from the physio is that it’s not too bad but just precaution so I’m happy that we took her off so we can ascertain clearly why there’s the issue, but it’s OK.”
Singapore captain Kai Wei Toh said: “It was really an honour to play against them and I think it was a great experience. We don’t always have the chance to play them so the team enjoyed it.
“I’m very proud of my girls. They put up a strong fight and a strong start, but we should keep it consistent through the four quarters. I think we tried to play a short game, which we did. There were a few successful passes down the court also and I think our defenders did really well. They went for all the balls and really tried very hard.”
Q2: 41-9 (24-2)
Q3: 61-14 (20-5)
Q4: 80-19 (19-5)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jane Watson (New Zealand)
MALAWI 84-48 BARBADOS
With singing and dancing Malawi fans in the stands, the Queens scored their second victory of the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town when they beat Barbados 84-48 on Sunday.
The match marked Malawi’s 50th appearance in the World Cup since their debut in 1995. It has been a challenging tournament for Barbados as they suffered their third consecutive loss.
Right from the opening whistle, Malawi took control of the game, showcasing strategic play that left Barbados struggling to keep up. The Queens' skilful passing and rock-solid defence made it difficult for the Bajan Gems to launch any effective counterattacks.
At the start of the second quarter, with Thandie Galetta replacing Jane Chimaliro on wing attack, the African team extended their lead even further. The next 15 minutes saw Barbados facing relentless pressure, with Malawi’s defenders making incredible interceptions and thwarting their opponents' progress. By halftime, Malawi held a commanding 43-22 lead.
The Bajan Gems made a determined effort at the beginning of the second half, with Kadeen Corbin scoring the first goal and expressing their intent to narrow the gap. However, Malaw’s experienced defenders, Towera Vinkhumbo and Jane Dambo, stood firm and they turned Barbados’ possession into scoring opportunities of their own.
Despite their resilience, Barbados couldn’t break through. In the third quarter, Malawi surged ahead with a dominant centre-court attack that left Barbados searching for answers. As the clock ticked down, Malawi maintained their lead, entering the final stages of the match with an impressive 29-goal advantage.
In the last 15 minutes, the Queens continued their dominance, controlling the pace and leaving no room for Barbados to stage a comeback.
Ultimately, Malawi’s tactical gameplay and strategic positioning were the key factors. Their seamless shooting circle rotations ensured a steady stream of scoring opportunities while suffocating defence denied their opponents quality ball possession.
Beaten by England on day 2, Malawi coach Samuel Kanyenda said his side had sat down with the whole team to properly prepare for Sunday’s encounter.
“After today’s win there is definitely less stress after the negative feedback from yesterday.
I’m proud of the girls for putting on a good performance and creating this win. Now we are looking forward to the rest of the games.”
Barbados vice-captain Tonisha Rock-Yaw said it was a tough day at the office.
“There were some things that were good, but we needed to capitalise and focus a lot more. We needed to try and limit the mistakes and turnovers, there were too many today. For the rest of the tournament, we are taking it day by day and just making sure we stay in it.”
Q2: 43-22 (23-12)
Q3: 64-35 (21-13)
Q4: 84-48 (20-13)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Takondwa Lwazi (Malawi)