Jani was in fine form in front of goal, as an injury-ravaged Barbados fell to another loss.
Zimbabwe had won the hearts of many neutrals with their performances in the competition so far, and came into the game with the possibility of earning a top-six finish at their first ever World Cup still alive.
By contrast, Barbados had just a solitary win to their name, picked up in their opening fixture of the tournament against Singapore.
This was the first ever World Cup meeting between the teams – both known as the Gems – and it was the Barbadians who made the quickest start, racing into a 4-1 lead early on.
Both sets of shooters were finding the target with apparent ease, and mid-court pressure allowed Zimbabwe – again roared on by their passionate band of supporters – to get back into the game, eventually levelling at 7-7.
The shooters on both sides all had unblemished records as the Zim Gems edged ahead, but it was the strong, composed presence of Jani at goal shooter for Zimbabwe who was becoming increasingly dominant.
Her accuracy, combined with fantastic work by her team-mates in their defensive third, allowed Zimbabwe to push out to 12-8 before Sheniqua Thomas recorded the first missed attempt of the match after ten minutes.
Mistakes were beginning to creep into the Barbadian play, with too many passes being over-thrown and disappearing off the back of the court. Jani, who ended the quarter at 100%, ensured they were punished as the first 15 minutes finished 17-11 to the Zimbabweans.
The gap remained at six through the opening stages of a scrappy second quarter, but it wasn’t long before Jani was pushing Zimbabwe forward again.
The lead was 23-14 when Zimbabwe suffered an injury blow. Perpetua Siyachitema suffered a heavy fall and went off to be replaced by Nadizivei Madzikangwa, who came on to win her 50th international cap.
The change momentarily threw the Zim Gems, as Ursula Ndlovu registered their first missed attempt of the match. Jani’s still-faultless shooting performance was being matched by the displays by her team-mates across the court though, and the Zimbabweans went in at half time 33-19 up.
The third quarter was marred by an injury to Barbados centre Rieah Holder, who went down heavily and left the arena via a wheelchair. She was replaced by Amanda Knight, and though she and her team-mates ensured the closest quarter of the match, they still couldn’t stop the service to Jani ending in the inevitable consequence of further Zimbabwean goals. The Zim Gems ended the quarter having grown their lead slightly – 48-32.
If Barbados suspected their luck was out, that suspicion will have grown during the final quarter, as Tonisha Rock-Yaw and the excellent Shonette Azore-Bruce collided with each other trying to intercept a pass into the goal third, leading to Azore-Bruce also going off injured.
Zimbabwe took full advantage of their opponents’ misfortune to extend their lead throughout the final quarter, chalking up a 66-41 win, as Jani ended with 51 goals from her 53 attempts.
The Zim Gems are now level with Malawi on four points, and play their African rivals in their final Group F game on Thursday.
The Diamonds were in sparkling form again, sweeping aside Malawi 74-25 as the Queens were restricted to their lowest ever World Cup score.
Australia coach Lisa Alexander made a number of changes to her starting line-up as the Diamonds faced their fifth game in five days. Gretel Tippett started at goal attack, Liz Watson at centre and Jamie-Lee Price at wing defence as the holders looked to extend their impressive start to the tournament.
Malawi came into the game off the back of three successive wins, including a hard-fought, 47-43 triumph over Northern Ireland yesterday. Joyce Mvula started on the bench, with Alinafe Kamwala and Sindi Simtowe in the shooting positions for the Queens.
However they were starved of opportunities in a first quarter which highlighted the dynamic nature of the holders’ play. Caitlin Bassett and Gretel Tippett were flawless throughout the first 15 minutes, both shooting at 100% while also producing moments of fantastic interplay to work shooting chances for each other.
Their quality was reflected throughout the court, with the Diamonds first to pounce on anything, harrying Malawi and forcing frequent turnovers of possession as they worked the ball down the court with speed and precision to their shooters, who quickly accumulated a commanding lead – 21-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Jane Chimaliro came off the bench at goal attack at the start of the second quarter, and immediately made an impact as Malawi matched their total from the entire first quarter in the opening minutes of the second.
They traded goals with the Diamonds in the early stages, but despite Tippett recording the Australians’ first unsuccessful attempt on goal in the match two minutes into the second quarter, they didn’t take long to again get a firm grip on proceedings.
The lead stretched out to beyond 30 as the clinical Diamonds displayed their quality all over the court, and exploited the spaces that were starting to appear as the Malawians struggled to keep a lid on the quality and quantity of Australia’s attacks.
By contrast, the injured Mvula was proving to be a big miss in the opposite shooting circle, with the Malawian shooters converting just five of the 12 shooting opportunities they created in the entire first half.
That fifth Malawian goal, scored by Kamwala, drew cheers from the neutrals in the crowd, but it wouldn’t have brought too much comfort to the Queens, who went in at half time trailing 41-5.
Alexander elected to make changes in both shooting positions for the third quarter, with Caitlin Thwaites and Steph Wood coming on. Any question of those changes disrupting the Diamonds’ rhythm were soon quashed though, as the pairing picked up exactly where their team-mates had left off in front of goal.
At the other end though, Malawi were far better, and their shooting combination of Simtowe and Chimaliro began to find the net with regularity as they benefited from more fluid movement and build-up play.
In what was a quarter of two halves, the score had moved competitively along to 54-13 before an excellent interception by Sarah Klau triggered another period of Australian dominance.
Wood and Thwaites continued to link up well as the Diamonds produced yet more brilliance, with both replacement shooters at 100% as the third quarter ended 61-14.
The crowd-pleasing Malawian revival continued into the fourth quarter however, as an even opening few minutes culminated in the Queens turning possession over and converting their opportunity to lead in a quarter for the first time in the match.
Thwaites and Wood were relentless though, both continuing their 100% record in front of goal as the lead stretched out to 50 for the first time, at 70-20 midway through the final quarter.
The Queens didn’t let that margin grow, and delighted the neutrals in the crowd by finishing with a flourish, scoring the last two goals of the game, which ended 74-25.
The win moves Australia on to eight points, level at the top of Group F with New Zealand. The two nations meet on Thursday morning, in the game which will decide the group winners.
Australia’s Steph Wood said:
“Our first half was really strong, then Malawi came out in that second half and did a few things differently. I think we adjusted pretty well, and now we’ll go back and prepare for New Zealand.”
The Silver Ferns built on their momentum from earlier on in the tournament to register a 77-28 win, although Dan Ryan’s Northern Ireland will also be able to take plenty of positives from a strong finish to the game.
Northern Ireland, off the back of two narrow defeats in their last two games, brought Shaunagh Craig back in at goal shooter, replacing Noleen Armstrong from the start.
Their task was a tall one from the outset – the Silver Ferns had won all six previous World Cup meetings between the teams, one of those meetings delivering what remains the biggest ever win in World Cup history – 112-4, in Eastbourne in 1963.
The gap is far narrower between the modern-day sides, but the as-yet unbeaten Silver Ferns made a rapid start, capitalising on early Northern Ireland errors to race into a 6-0 lead.
Emma Magee put the Warriors on the board after five minutes, and that triggered an improved period for Dan Ryan’s side, who traded goals with the Kiwis over the next few minutes.
Craig got her first goal eight minutes in, and subsequently delighted the Northern Irish fans in the crowd with a wonderful piece of handling to gather in a ball which looked destined to go out of play, before scoring.
New Zealand’s strength at both ends of the court was evident though, and they turned possession over on numerous occasions to push their lead out as the quarter progressed, finishing the first 15 minutes 22-7 ahead.
They followed that up by again applying early pressure in the second quarter with – just as in the first – Northern Ireland taking five minutes to add to their score.
By then, the relentless Silver Fern machine had well and truly clicked into gear, with the superb defensive work of Jane Watson and Casey Kopua and one particular moment of high-quality handling between Laura Langman and Ameliaranne Ekenasio underlining the magnitude of the Warriors’ task.
New Zealand were getting the ball to their shooters with relative ease, and pressed on ruthlessly as the quarter progressed, stretching their lead out to 44-11 at half time.
Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua made a raft of changes at the break, and Northern Ireland capitalised on a loss of fluidity to start the third quarter in a much better fashion.
In what was a scrappy quarter in general, good work from substitute Bailey Mes brought up the New Zealand half century as the lead continued to go out, but the Northern Ireland defenders were having more success, narrowing the gap in the scoring rate and keeping their opponents to just 17 in the quarter, as opposed to the 22 they managed in each of the opening two.
However, a typical moment of quality from Maria Folau wasn’t far away, and she ended the quarter with a wonderful shot from range to extend the Kiwis’ advantage to 61-17.
Despite more changes, New Zealand made a far smoother start to the final quarter, again stepping up defensively to claim numerous turnovers and move through the gears again as they pushed their lead out.
To their immense credit though, Northern Ireland produced by far their best quarter of the game, with one particularly flowing move finished off by Ciara Crosbie highlighting the quality they too possess in their ranks.
New Zealand were simply a class above, though, and Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit continued to add to the scoreline as Taurua took the opportunity to try various combinations all over the court as the Silver Ferns’ potential group decider with Australia on Thursday comes into view.
Northern Ireland’s Ciara Crosbie said:
“I think whenever we go up against the world’s best, as New Zealand are, we can be a bit star-struck to start off with, but once we get ourselves into it like today we know we can give any team a good run.”
Tasked with marking the tournament’s tallest player and top goalscorer, Tharjini Sivalingam, Misa excelled, recording 11 interceptions as the Samoans ran out 65-55 winners.
A series of athletic interventions helped prevent the ball reaching Sivalingam as much as the Sri Lankans would have liked, as Misa and her team-mates recorded their second win in two days.
Afterwards, she said:
“I don’t think I’m a high jumper – I was just trying to get up as high as I can. (Playing against Sivalingam) was obviously a challenge. It was really hard. I don’t think I’ve come across (an opponent) as tall as her so it was really hard, but the pressure at the front made my job a lot easier.
“It was about putting pressure up at the front so that way we could force the ball back. The girls at the front put heaps of pressure on the ball. It feels good.”
Their two successive Group E wins mean that Samoa are guaranteed a place in Friday’s play-off to decide the 13th-placed team at the Vitality Netball World Cup, and Misa says confidence has been boosted.
“We took that win (yesterday) and took today as a new day – a brand new game. We just wanted to go out and do the same thing. We came out strong: started strong and finished strong. We played our normal game.
“I think confidence went up (after yesterday’s victory). We just played our own game and keep doing that. We have Singapore tomorrow so hopefully we finish strong.”
Samoan goal keeper Lenora Misa – the Player of the Match – in particular impressed, registering 11 interceptions against the obvious threat of the tournament’s top scorer Tharjini Sivalingam.
Sri Lanka beat Singapore by 38 goals yesterday to record their highest ever score at a World Cup – and their first win at a World Cup since matchday one in 2015, a 12-match losing streak – and topped the group involving the four bottom-placed stage one sides going into day five of the tournament.
Samoa, though, had won all five meetings between the teams at World Cups previously – and that 100% record continued.
Sivalingam, who shot 76 out of 78 (97% accuracy) against Singapore on Monday, continued her excellent scoring form as she netted all 16 goals scored by Sri Lanka in the opening quarter.
Misa, winning her fourth cap having made her debut at the World Cup, was kept busy and initially struggled to deal with the significant height difference between the pair.
After an incredibly end-to-end and flowing encounter across the first 15 minutes, Sri Lanka led 17-13. That ebb and flow to the match was something that was set to continue.
The high intensity extended into the second period, though the quality, particularly from Sivalingam, waned a little as Misa began to make interceptions on a regular basis. The goal shooter missed four chances to score early in the second quarter, which only increased Samoa’s confidence.
Sivalingam was punished by Samoa at the other end, as they won the period 19-10, and took the lead in the game overall, five goals clear at the halfway mark.
Samoa’s excellent interchanges and the clinical nature of goal shooter Toa Tanimo, who scored 21 times from 22 shots in the opening two quarters, meant they had edged the first half.
Samoa, keen to maintain the momentum built up from the previous 15 minutes, soon opened up an eight-goal advantage early in the third quarter.
Sri Lanka, though, were not prepared to go down without a fight, as they notched three times in quick succession themselves courtesy of Sivalingam.
As the quarter progressed though, it was Samoa who extended their lead, as they quickened the pace and got the ball forward to goal shooter Tanimo more quickly. Tanimo converted on 42 occasions throughout the match, missing just three times, and it was her goals that fired Samoa further into the lead.
The gap was 12 goals at its largest during the third quarter, but by the end of it, Sivalingam’s conversions had pulled that back slightly to nine.
Goal attack Dulangi Wannithileka got onto the scoresheet for Sri Lanka as they cut the deficit to seven at one stage in the final quarter, but time was running out fast. With more and more urgency in attack, holes were left in defence which Samoa exploited on the counter-attack.
Sri Lanka won the final quarter by 17 goals to 13, but it was insufficient. Samoa took wins in each of the first three quarters and deservedly earned the two points.
In the final match of the second group stage, Sri Lanka will face Fiji, while Samoa will play Singapore. Both of those games will take place in session 11, on Wednesday morning, before the placings begin on Friday.
The Fijians drew level on points with Sri Lanka and Samoa in Group E – at least until the pair play each other later today – by beating Natalie Milicich’s team 71-56.
In this second group stage, the top two in Group E – comprised of those who finished bottom of the initial groups – will face off to play for 13th place, while the two at the bottom compete to finish 15th.
Both teams lost all three of their matches in the first group stage. Fiji, though, had won all five of the previous meetings between the pair at World Cups and also won all three games in a three-match test earlier this year, back in April.
It was Fiji who started the first quarter on top, with goal shooter Lydia Panapasa – denied a last-second equaliser in the 55-54 defeat to Samoa yesterday – wasting no time in firing her side three goals in front.
Singapore pulled a couple back courtesy of two close-range finishes from Kai Wei Toh, but Fiji were beginning to dominate.
Panapasa had six within three minutes of the first centre pass, and had added 11 more to that tally by the time the first period came to a close – achieving a 100% rate of accuracy.
Singapore kept themselves in contention with 12 goals of their own and did well in attack when given the chance, although Fiji were edging the possession statistics and led by 10 after 15 minutes.
That 10-goal advantage was cut to nine during the second quarter as the teams went in for half-time with the scoreline standing at 35-26 to Fiji.
Matila Vocea replaced Panapasa for the second quarter and while she netted nine times, her accuracy was only 82%. Fiji could have led by more had they taken slightly more care in the final third, but were still content to be nine goals clear at the break.
Having been pegged back a little, Fiji were keen to take control of the fixture once again. Their centre Kaitlyn Fisher, who was earning her eighth cap for her country, got the second half of the game under way, and with Panapasa now back on the court, Fiji began to pull away again.
Singapore’s experienced goal shooter and team captain Charmaine Soh, now on 108 international appearances, did her utmost to drag her team forwards as she helped her side score 14, but Fiji were proving to be too strong.
Vocea improved as she switched to goal attack, while Panapasa clinically extended her 100% record in front of the net to 32 goals from 32 attempts.
Singapore, with 15 minutes to claw back a 12-goal gap, knew they had a tough task ahead of them to get anything from the match. So it proved, as they scored 16 times themselves in the final quarter, but conceded another 19 in the process.
Panapasa finished the game having netted 41 times, missing twice in the final 15 minutes, though by this point the result was secure.
The first quarter – where Fiji put themselves 10 goals clear – proved to be the difference, with the remainder of the game much more evenly contested.
Group E will conclude with Fiji playing Sri Lanka and Singapore facing Samoa on Wednesday morning. The final placing matches for all four teams will then take place on Friday morning.
Fiji’s Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro said:
“It’s amazing (to win our first match of the tournament). I’m excited for the girls. We wanted to win this game. We executed our goals – we’re very happy. The girls kept pushing to the last whistle even though we were leading.
“I think after losing yesterday we went back, we had to regroup again and then we wanted to win today. Sri Lanka (tomorrow) is going to be a hard, tough game as well, but we are hoping to win again.
“It’s about keeping possession, maintaining our possession, and executing every ball that we get.”
Usoro-Brown reached her century of international appearances as the hosts beat Jamaica 56-48 to edge closer to a Vitality Netball World Cup semi-final spot.
While the milestone was ‘overwhelming’, the 31-year-old says that the performance that she and the Roses produced in front of a packed M&S Bank Arena ensured a truly memorable occasion.
“It was incredibly special out there today. It’s a bit overwhelming to get to 100 caps, but it was just as special as my first, and what a team performance out there tonight. We built across each of the four quarters and I’m so happy we came away with the result today.
“In Jade Clarke’s 150th game she won the Commonwealth Games gold medal, so we have a thing in the England team for having big matches on our milestone caps! I think today – never mind it being my 100th – we wanted to come out and play well.
“We saw Jamaica play against South Africa last night and we knew they were going to come for us, so it’s really pleasing to build confidence, belief and the consistency.”
England were again roared on by a capacity crowd, and Usoro-Brown says that the support for the Roses is driving Tracey Neville’s team on.
“I’m absolutely loving it. We were in the fan park yesterday signing autographs and everyone is behind us. We’re so humbled by it. Everyone in the crowd today was roaring and cheering, and my social media has been off the chain, so thank you so much to the fans. They’re definitely our 13th player, and hopefully that continues.”
The Proteas and Tracey Neville’s Roses both have six points, and look to be favourites to secure the two semi-final berths on offer to teams in their group.
However, after their first rest day of the tournament tomorrow, both have another fixture to contend with before Thursday’s showdown: England take on Trinidad and Tobago while South Africa face Uganda.
Msomi says that the talent the She Cranes possess means that South Africa can’t afford to let their focus wander to the England clash.
“We have Uganda next, and they’re not just another side – they’re a quality side and we’ll have a big game against them, so we are focusing on that. Whatever happens elsewhere in the group, we have to perform to benefit ourselves.
“We have to switch on if we want to work through the tournament – we have so much respect for all the teams here. It’s game-by-game and we have to be switched on still, because we can’t take anyone for granted – that’s why this tournament is huge this year.”
South Africa took on Scotland today, and recorded a comfortable 66-38 victory – their fourth from four in the competition so far.
Of their campaign, Msomi said:
“It’s been amazing – it’s been a good journey for us. We came up with the win yesterday against Jamaica and that was amazing for us. We couldn’t have asked for a better win to give us some confidence going forward.
“Today, against Scotland, everyone did really well and we played well. We came here with 12 players to come on court whenever we need to, and it’s the coach’s strategy to work things out and save legs where we can. We know we’ve got great players to step on court and perform and I think we did that really well.”
The result, coupled with England’s earlier win over Jamaica, means that the Roses and Proteas are locked on six points each at the top of the group, ahead of Thursday’s potential group decider.
Scotland more than held their own against their higher-ranked opponents in the early stages, capitalising on the fumble in South Africa’s attack to open up a 5-3 lead.
South Africa’s threat was never far away though, and good interplay between Bongiwe Msomi, Izette Griesel and Renske Stoltz saw them claw their way back and eventually establish a 15-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
They extended that lead in the second quarter, as their composure and quality began to tell, and to force mistakes from the Thistles. The Proteas, by contrast, were making fewer errors and Lenize Potgieter looked particularly good in the circle, helping her side to take a 32-20 lead into the break.
South Africa’s attack was changed in the third quarter, but the new combination of Sigrid Burger and Maryka Holtzhausen continued to push the Proteas on, as the young Thistles side struggled to find opportunities.
Emma Barrie did add new impetus to the Scots’ attack after coming on, but South Africa continued to move further clear, ending the third quarter 49-32 up.
With the result beyond doubt, the final quarter was a more defensive affair, as each team struggled to find goal opportunities in the first five minutes. The tiredness began to show in Scotland, who were coming off the back of an energy-sapping defeat against Uganda, while Burger and Holtzhausen kept the scoreboard ticking over for South Africa, who finished 66-38 winners.
Scotland’s Emma Barrie said:
“We had some good stuff out on court but we were lacking consistency. We’ll go back and look at some analysis, see where we went wrong and try and fix it for our next match.”
In the first ever meeting between Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda, the shooting firepower of both teams was evident throughout.
From the very start of the first quarter it was clear that very little separated the two sides; much of the action throughout the fifteen minutes was goal-for-goal.
The lowest shooting statistic in the quarter was 90% from Peace Proscovia, whilst the goal attacks on both sides, Kalifa McCollin and Stella Oyella, fired at 100%.
It was the Calypso Girls that eventually edged in front before things returned back to type, with the first quarter ending 17-15 to Trinidad and Tobago.
Quarter two saw Uganda seize early momentum, and with a turnover they were able to draw things level.
With Mary Nuba Cholock joining McCollin and Oyella at 100%, the goals continued to pour in one after the other.
Uganda finally found and converted their second turnover of the quarter as the fifth minute began to tick away but an errant pass into Cholock undid their hard work and Trinidad and Tobago were able to capitalize on the error.
Inspired by the opportunity gifted to them to draw things level, Trinidad and Tobago took the initiative again to break the goal-for-goal rhythm, reversing the early lead had Uganda established. As the whistle blew for half time the score was 31-30 to the Calypso Girls.
As things continued to tick over goal-for-goal once more in the third quarter, a footwork foul from Cholock threatened to allow Trinidad and Tobago to extend their lead, however a three-second infringement triggered by a strong all-court defense from the She Cranes meant they re-gathered possession.
This to-and-fro nature of proceedings stirred the She Cranes into a turnover and a steady stream of three goals in a row, with both Uganda shooters still at 100% as they took the lead once more from the Calypso Girls.
But this run of goals was immediately matched and then beaten by Trinidad and Tobago, who added one extra to take the lead back.
Responding to the momentum swing, Proscovia was brought back on for Cholock, which proved a savvy decision from coach Vincent Kiwanuka as Proscovia’s presence shifted things back in the She Cranes’ favour.
As the quarter ticked down, Uganda were able to push their lead to five goals, and went into the final quarter 46-41 up.
Strong zonal defence kicked the fourth quarter into action, with the She Cranes each manning their players to force a turnover on the Calypso Girls’ centre.
But the favour was soon returned and Trinidad and Tobago began to slowly eat into the Ugandan lead after a string of three goals were scored. An ill-timed miss from Samantha Wallace, however, stopped the Calypso Girls from being able to draw things back level and they were held at three goals adrift for the most part of the final quarter, eventually falling to a 57-54 defeat.
Samantha Wallace, Trinidad and Tobago’s goal shooter, said:
“It was a good contest. We knew they were going to come out and give their best. Everybody wants to improve their rankings so we knew what we were in for.
“I think we did really well I’m really impressed with the girls; compared to other games, I’m really impressed with them.”
Uganda captain Peace Proscovia said:
“I feel overwhelmed with joy to win that game. Most importantly the confidence that the players had to go out there – especially playing a team like Trinidad and Tobago – with very limited error rate was a hard one, we just needed to be very clinical and innovative but that’s what the team did, and I’m so proud of that.”