Just like Australia did with their win against Malawi earlier in the day, England secured their place in the semi-finals with a victory over Fiji at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
Tonga’s victory over Scotland ensured they will finish no lower than ninth, while it was Zimbabwe who triumphed in the battle of the bottom sides, claiming their first win of the tournament.
FIJI 28-89 ENGLAND
World number three England took on Fiji for the fifth time at a Netball World Cup and made it five wins from five in clinical fashion with a 28-89 victory in Cape Town on Tuesday. That saw them securing their spot in the semifinals with one game to play in the second round of preliminaries.
The Roses came out firing from the start. They proved solid on defence in the first quarter and even more deadly on attack with both shooters achieving a 100 per cent record and cruising to their highest quarter score of the tournament so far, taking a 26-8 lead into the first break.
Chelsea Pitman came on at wing attack at the start of the second quarter to earn her 50th England cap.
Fiji struggled to keep up with England’s pace as the Roses maintained their intensity in the second quarter. Another excellent showing from Imogen Allison – first at centre and then wing defence saw her turning plenty of ball to feed her rock-solid shooters. England’s slick connections saw them reaching the 50-goal mark by halftime, with Helen Housby maintaining her 100 per cent average, sinking 21 from 21.
The Pearls slowed England down somewhat in the third quarter, but not enough to have any major impact on the course of the game as England took a 46-goal lead into the final break.
The Fijians managed to score only five goals in the final period as England ran away with the 89-28 victory to book their spot in Saturday’s semifinals. The Roses’ showdown with Australia on Thursday will determine which side will top the group.
Despite the loss, Fiji were already assured of finishing higher than they did at the 2019 Netball World Cup after safely negotiating their way through the first group stage – so securing a place of 12th or higher.
England goal shooter Eleanor Cardwell was named Most Valuable Player after finishing the match with 40 goals from her 41 attempts for a 97.6 shooting average.
“I’m pretty pleased today,” said Cardwell afterwards. “Jess gave me the task of trying to shoot some longer shots today so I think I tried my best to do that. I’m pretty proud of all the team’s performance of what we put up today.”
As for her plans for a first hard-earned day off on Wednesday, Cardwell reckoned: “Sleep, sleep, eat, sleep. That’s about it. Might go on a little walk, venture out and actually see a bit of South Africa but hopefully lots of sleep.”
Fiji coach Unaisi Rokoura said afterwards it was a tough day at the office for her team.
"We knew England were going to be very tight defensively and we had to go hard at the ball from the beginning. In the first quarter we got some of the possession but we just didn’t capitalise on it and England took advantage of that,” she said.
“We came with a very young team and we've seen them grow in the last year as we prepared for the World Cup. They’ve now had the opportunity to play against the very big teams.”
Q2: 15-50 (7-24)
Q3: 23-69 (8-19)
Q4: 28-89 (5-20)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Eleanor Cardwell (England)
TONGA 55-47 SCOTLAND
Tonga and Scotland faced off for the first time at a Netball World Cup in a Group F encounter in Cape Town on Tuesday, and it was the Tongan Tala who emerged as 55-47 winners.
The Scots missed several goals early in the first quarter, so allowing Tonga to get away from them and, perhaps, shaking their confidence. At the other end of the court, Tongan goal shooter Uneeq Palavi was once again a pillar of strength, however, putting in 12 of her 13
attempts in the first period. Her combination with centre Hulita Veve was also as impressive as ever, as the Tongans headed into the first break five goals up.
Scotland’s Emma Barrie came on for the struggling Beth Goodwin at goal shooter at the start of the second quarter, which proved to be a more even affair, ending on 13-13. Former Australian Diamond Mo’onia Gerrard had replaced Kelea Iongi at goal defence and
continued to put pressure on the Scottish shooters, whose average stood at just 69.7 per cent at halftime, compared to Tonga’s 84.8 per cent.
Scotland improved those numbers in the third number, slotting in 12 of their 14 attempts,
but with the damage already done, it was not enough to reel in the Tongans who continued to build on their lead, stretching it to nine goals by the final break.
A frantic final 15 minutes followed with the Thistles suddenly producing the intensity that was previously lacking and managing to win the quarter by one goal. But it was too little too late as the Tongans wrapped up the win to ensure they’ll finish no lower that ninth in the tournament.
Palavi was named Most Valuable Player and said: “Scotland was very physical – we expected that from them. But we also expected that from ourselves and it was a good match-up against them.
“I think we just had the confidence. We came in blazing because we really wanted to prove ourselves after the previous losses against England and Australia. We just really wanted to cement ourselves in the rankings.”
Hannah Leighton, who did not receive the gift she would have wanted on her 25th birthday,
was impressive for Scotland in midcourt. She said a lack of consistency has let her side down.
“I think a lot of the things we were doing were good,” she said. “We were driving the ball through court and we were creating opportunities to win ball. I just think we need to be a lot more consistent throughout the game and just, at those key points, make sure that we’re still sticking to our structures and taking the ball forward with intent to goal.”
Q2: 28-23 (13-13)
Q3: 44-35 (16-12)
Q4: 55-47 (11-12)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Uneeq Palavi (Tonga)
ZIMBABWE 71-36 SRI LANKA
With pride and honour on the line, Zimbabwe scored their first victory of the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town when they beat Sri Lanka 71-36 in a Pool E match.
The Gems started strongly, scoring four consecutive goals, causing immediate changes in positions for the Sri Lankan team on the court. Progress Moyo impressed with her excellent play on wing attack, controlling the mid-court and providing quality passes to the Zimbabwe goal circle. Shooters Nalani Makunde and Nicole Muzanenamo made the most of their opportunities, missing only one goal, and giving their team a comfortable 33-22 lead at halftime.
In the second quarter, Sri Lanka performed better, scoring only three goals less than Zimbabwe and holding 60 per cent of the possession.
However, in the last 30 minutes of the match, Zimbabwe, ranked 13th, dominated over 15th-ranked Sri Lanka, who seemed disheartened and unable to respond to the challenge.
In the Zimbabwe circle, Muzanenamo displayed impressive split landings despite her small stature and was recognised for her outstanding performance with the Most Valuable Player award.
In the final 15 minutes of the one-sided match, Zimbabwe continued their impressive play, scoring 19 goals while limiting Sri Lanka to just six, to wrap up the emphatic victory.
Muzanenamo expressed her delight with her team’s performance. “I would like to thank my teammates for not giving up, they did very well and did not give up until the very last minute,” she said. “I told myself whenever I get the opportunity, I’m going to give my best. We have also learned from our mistakes and we are going to work on that and keep on fighting.”
Q2: 33-22 (15-12)
Q3: 52-30 (19-8)
Q4: 71-36 (19-6)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Nicole Muzanenamo (Zimbabwe)