New Zealand stand strong after Nweke ruled out while Australia and Malawi earn second stage wins.
Monday, 31 July 2023: Rocked by the injury-enforced withdrawal of young goal shooter Grace Nweke, New Zealand rallied to put in an impressive performance against Wales on the first day of second-stage matches at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town. Australia easily overcame Scotland and Malawi beat Fiji while in the battle for the minor places, it was Barbados that got the better of Zimbabwe.
AUSTRALIA 76 – 37 SCOTLAND
Australia came up against Scotland for the 10th time at a Netball World Cup when the second stage of the preliminaries got under way at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Monday morning.
It was always going to be a tough prospect for the Scots, taking on the 11-time world champions, who had scored 20 or more goals in all but one of their quarters at this tournament so far. It was nevertheless a promising start for the Thistles, bringing some good intensity at the start of the game. But the world’s 10th-ranked side struggled with consistency and soon fell behind, the Aussies racing away to a 21-9 lead by the first break.
Australian captain Liz Watson came on for Jamie-Lee Price in the second quarter after the centre was cautioned at the end of the first, and Sunday Aryang replaced Jo Weston at goal defence, while Scotland coach Tamsin Greenway made multiple changes to her side – giving as many players as possible the chance to test themselves against the world No. 1 team.
Goal attack Sophie Garbin kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Diamonds, scoring 38 out of Australia’s 43 goals by halftime, at an average of 95 per cent.
Like in their match against England on Sunday, Scotland enjoyed an impressive third quarter, some excellent defence restricting Australia to just 15 goals while scoring 11 of their own.
The Thistles continued that momentum at the start of the fourth period, upping their intensity once again while some sloppy play started creeping in for the Diamonds, who appeared to have taken their foot off the pedal somewhat. But the Diamonds soon got themselves back on track to win the final quarter by nine goals, so wrapping up the 76-37 win.
The Scots could be proud of their performance – becoming the first team at the tournament to restrict the Australians to less than 80 goals in total.
Speaking afterwards, Australian coach Stacey Marinkovich said: “It was one where I thought we started really well. I think our centre pass was going quite smoothly. I think we didn’t necessarily reward the gains we got defensively but it’s getting to that point where you’re continually looking for growth and execution but you’ve also got to celebrate the wins. We’ve gone four from four and we’ve had some big scoring margins, we’ve rotated and used the variety and depth that we’ve got and people are getting out there and performing.
Adding her thoughts on Scotland’s performance, particularly in the third quarter, Marinkovich said: “I think the last 10 minutes of that quarter we were equal scoring and that’s what you’ve got to respect. I think Scotland stepped up their presence in defence and certainly made us work a lot harder… I guess that’s what World Cups are about – it’s about being able to do things over 60 minutes and it’s great to see that every country is having moments where they’re showing what they’re capable of and they’ll continue to evolve and grow as we’re trying to.”
Scotland captain Claire Maxwell was thrilled with her team’s performance, saying: “We really, really enjoyed that game. It’s always a great pleasure playing against the world No. 1 and just being able to see where we’re at against them.
“I think we had passages of absolutely excellent play but there were also times when we could have made better decisions on the court, but overall I’m really pleased.”
Q2: 43-17 (22-8)
Q3: 58-28 (15-11)
Q4: 76-37 (18-9)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jamie-Lee Price (Australia)
BARBADOS 62 – 45 ZIMBABWE
In their second meeting at a World Cup, Barbados beat Zimbabwe 62-45 In a Group E match at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town. The roles have been reversed as at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool, Zimbabwe walked away with bragging rights following a 66-41 victory.
While all the Zimbabwe players have been given court time, Carla Boyce is the only Bajan who hasn’t played in Cape Town. She is also yet to make her international debut.
Initially it seemed Zimbabwe would be able to keep up with their opponents with the scoreline still within reach. There was a handful of much-needed interceptions and deflections that frustrated Barbados.
As the first 15 minutes wound down, the Bajan Gems however settled into things with a run of successive goals by shooter Kadeen Corbin. Barbados also started starving Zimbabwe of crucial possession and this continued in the second quarter. The teams went into the halftime break with Barbados comfortably leading 35-16.
The difference in reaction of the two benches was a clear reflection of how the game was progressing. Whereas the Barbados players were enthusiastically cheering, the Zimbabwean coaching staff were shouting instructions up and down the court in frustration. It was also evident in the changes in the team setup with Zimbabwe switching and moving players around constantly. The first substitution for Barbados was only made in the last quarter when Teresa Howell moved to the bench and Tonisha Rock-Yaw came in at centre.
Zimbabwe had a much better second half as they outscored the Bajan Gems by two goals (29-27). The Gems’ disappointing run of performances ultimately continued in Cape Town, however, considering they finished in eighth place four years ago.
Q2: 35-16 (20-7)
Q3: 50-31 (15-15)
Q4: 62-45 (12-14)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kadeen Corbin (Barbados)
WALES 34 – 83 NEW ZEALAND
The news overshadowing the Silver Ferns team as they took to the court for their Netball World Cup match against Wales on Monday was that goal shooter Grace Nweke will take no further part in the tournament in Cape Town.
Nweke limped off the court with a knee injury in New Zealand’s match against Singapore on Sunday and while early reports suggested the problem was not a serious one, just a day later the official statement came that Nweke had suffered a partial tear in her patella tendon and has been replaced in the squad by travelling reserve Tiana Metuarau.
Maia Wilson started the Wales game as goal shooter and duly delivered, notching up a 100 per cent average with 29 from 29 in the first half as the Silver Ferns powered into a 40-16 lead by halftime.
She extended that flawless record into the third quarter, adding 20 more goals to the rising New Zealand total, deservedly earning her the Most Valuable Player accolade.
Metuarau was given her first taste of World Cup action when she replaced Ameliaranne Ekenasio with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter and looked at home immediately as the Ferns continued to dominate.
While the fourth quarter was a better one for Wales, with only six goals separating the sides, the defending champions had no trouble in wrapping up the 83-34 win.
Speaking about Nweke’s injury after the match, New Zealand captain Ekenasio said: “We were really devastated when we found out about Grace, lots of emotions and lots of tears but we’ve always been really big on it being the full 15 of us s it’s been really important that everybody feels that they’ve got a place and they know their role as well and they can own it.
“So, for us it’s about supporting [Grace], being around her and being there for her and also supporting Tiana as well. Also we don’t have time, we have to move so that’s really big for us and we’ve got to do it together – that’s the only way we’re going to be able to do it.”
New Zealand coach Noeline Tuarua added: “I don’t believe it is a big blow. If anything it’s probably forced the issue to consolidate faster… what we’ve always known in the team is that we can’t always rely on one person. We have to make sure we have players who can play in multiple positions but also players that can do their own job… sometimes things like this galvanise teams so we’re just putting our heads down and seeing what happens the next day.”
Wales captain Nia Jones said: When we were drawn in this pool, we knew we would possibly face the Ferns and I think where they are and their level of experience, they’re always going o be targeting a podium finish and it’s slightly out of our reach at the minute.
“But we really had to break it down and see whether we could get under their skin really early, or force them into some errors, maybe cause a little frustration. At times we really did that. I think we were patient with the ball and took on their zone and were actually able to break through it and then other times I think we fell into their trap a little bit… so, a little bit of naivety there but we’ve got some inexperience in this group and next time round we’ll be better prepped for it.
Q2: 16-40 (8-21)
Q3: 22-65 (6-25)
Q4: 83-34 (12-18)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Maia Wilson (New Zealand)
MALAWI 62 – 48 FIJI
Fuelled by a vocal crowd, Malawi overcame a blistering start by Fiji in their Group F match on Monday to record a 62-48 win at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
In their only previous meeting at a World Cup, Malawi also got the better of the Fijians, beating them 68-45 in Christchurch in 1999. More recently (April 2023) the Queens defeated the Pearls 54-47 at the Pacific-Aus Series on the Australian Gold Coast.
A streak of nine unanswered goals midway through the first quarter saw Malawi edge ahead of Fiji with Joyce Mvula shooting with deadly accuracy. At the other end of the court defenders Jane Dambo and Towera Vinkhumbo were solid, denying the Fijian shooters any breathing space. The Queens went into the halftime break with a comfortable 36-23 cushion.
In an attempt to counter the Malawian playmaking and pump some added energy into her squad, Fiji coach Unaisi Rakoura made a handful of changes before the halftime break. Most were in the mid-court where the Pearls had been struggling. Malawi on the other hand only saw changes in the third quarter with Mwai Kumwenda replacing Jane Chimaliro on goal attack. She went on to win the award as Most Valuable Player.
Fiji came out all guns blazing in the penultimate quarter intent on not simply handing Malawi an easy victory. They shared the spoils with the Queens in the third quarter (11-11).
In the final 15 minutes, the Malawian mid-court players demonstrated great ball control and created even more scoring opportunities while at the same time limiting Fiji’s chances to counterattack. Centre Takondwa Lwazi, who was on court for all four quarters despite playing with a heavily strapped right knee, was instrumental in linking Malawi’s attacking and defensive combinations.
While Fiji had more than 50 per cent of the ball in the last quarter, it was Malawi who had the better of possession throughout the match, giving their shooters enough chances to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Malawi’s Lwazi, who only left the court in the final seven minutes of the match, said her side had started well in the first two quarters but then let themselves down.
“We didn’t do well in the third and fourth quarters, we missed some important passes. For tomorrow’s match [against Australia] we’ll work on the mistakes we made today and we have to keep our focus throughout. We are going to try our best.”
Fiji captain Maria Lutua-Rusivakula lamented her team’s missed opportunities.
“The Malawi Queens came out strong and we knew it was going to be a physical game. We tried to keep the focus and the momentum going. For us it’s always a case of keeping moving and keeping possession of the ball and then bringing it safely to our shooters.”
Q2: 36-23 (16-13)
Q3: 47-34 (11-11)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Mwai Kumwenda (Malawi)