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.”