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 meeting was the fifth time the sides had faced off in World Cup history, with Australia winning the previous four, including in the last tournament in 2015.
The Diamonds were heavy favourites entering the game after they topped Group A in Preliminaries stage one, whilst Barbados finished third in Group B after only picking up one victory.
After a ruthless 99-24 victory over Sri Lanka yesterday, Australia were in a similar mood at the beginning of this contest as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but they were pegged back as the Bajan Gems scored the next two goals.
Despite a promising shooting start for Shonica Wharton and Sheniqua Thomas, Barbados began to struggle to make their shots with Thomas converting just one of her next four goal attempts.
Australia were having no such problems, and Caitlin Bassett in particular had a strong opening quarter as she shot at 100%. That was backed up by Steph Wood who added eight goals as the Diamonds finished the quarter with a 23-5 lead.
Despite Barbados scoring the first goal of the second period, the Diamonds registered the next 21 goals without reply to build on their lead. Bassett and Wood continued to mount up the goals and Wood in particular showcased her shooting range.
Barbados were finding it difficult to progress the ball through the thirds as Australia suffocated them defensively, limiting their space. Wharton was reduced to a spectator for large parts as the Diamonds harassed and harried the Bajan Gems, cutting off the supply to the Barbados goal shooter.
Their goal drought lasted nearly 12 minutes before Wharton scored their second and final goal of the quarter as Australia’s advantage grew to 46-7 at half time.
Bassett was replaced at half time by Caitlin Thwaites, which earned the goal shooter her 50th international cap, and she followed up her impressive shooting performance against Sri Lanka by quickly getting off the mark, making her first two goal attempts in the early exchanges of the quarter.
The third quarter continued with more Australian dominance, but Barbados were creating more scoring opportunities for themselves as Wharton scored her first three goal attempts of the period. The Bajan Gems goal shooter finished with eight goals in the quarter – in what was her side’s highest-scoring period of the match.
Australia, however, kept the scoreboard ticking and increased their lead. Clinical shooting from both Thwaites and fellow substitute Gretel Tippett saw the pair score all 25 of their goal attempts in the quarter as the Diamonds stretched their lead to 71-15.
In the fourth, Australia continued to showcase their attacking flair as they racked up the goals. Barbados started the period brightly themselves as Wharton continued to take her shooting opportunities, but Australia were too strong and romped to their fourth consecutive victory of the tournament.
The result puts Australia in a great position to finish in the top two of Group F and advance to the final four of the competition. Next up for Barbados is Zimbabwe which will give Sandra Bruce-Small’s side an opportunity to pick up their second victory of the tournament.
After earning her 50th international cap, Australia’s Caitlin Thwaites said:
“It’s awesome. I guess you don’t really play for those kind of things but it’s really nice to have been around long enough to have done that.
“I think we are building along the tournament. We’ve had some key learnings from our opponents already and another one today. It seems like it’s a bit of a marathon, so we are building in terms of opponents. It is only going to get harder as the week goes on.
“It is great to be able to test out some of those different combinations at the moment too; seeing the ones that are really gelling and being able to get a lot of time in everybody.”
Battle lines were drawn between the two teams who found themselves in the same position after each suffered a loss to New Zealand but claimed wins over Singapore.
Malawi got off to a shaky start from a delayed centre pass, and consequently Joyce Mvula failed to convert their first shooting opportunity into a goal. Barbados were quick to react and within seconds Shonica Wharton scored the first goal of the match, however Malawi soon regained possession and directed the ball back to their own shooting-circle where Mvula got Malawi off the mark.
The first five minutes continued in an even pattern, before Malawi stepped up their centre court intensity and began to dominate. Takondwa Lwazi controlled Malawi’s shooting circle, receiving and feeding balls into Mvula and Jane Chimaliro, who scored nine goals with no response, contributing to a Malawian lead of 17-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Their first quarter performance ensured a confident start to the second by the Queens, and Mvula and Chimaliro continued to build their advantage. Barbados duo Sheniqua Thomas and Shonica Wharton were on form in front of the net, but quick movement between Lawzi and Thandie Galletta in particular allowed Malawi to extend their lead to 35-20 at the break.
Barbados saw possession overturned early in the third quarter, when a superb Lawzi interception triggered a Malawian attack which would end in a superbly-executed Mvula goal.
The Gems’ shooters continued to be a force to be reckoned with, however Malawi were taking full advantage of the amount of penalties awarded in the attacking third, extending their lead further and again winning the quarter 17-11.
Chimaliro was substituted early in the final quarter, and Malawi looked to tire slightly as Sheniqua Thomas and Latonia Blackman continued to shoot well to ensure that the last 15 minutes would be the closest quarter of the match. Despite the late Barbadian rally though, Malawi had enough in the locker to get over the line comfortably, by a scoreline of 65-41.
The Silver Ferns had won all seven of the previous World Cup contests between the sides and after a competitive first quarter, they began to show their quality and ultimately ran out clear winners.
After a superb win against Singapore yesterday, Barbados entered the game with confidence but as the tie wore on, they were out classed by Noeline Taurua’s ruthless side.
It was a commanding start from New Zealand as they scored the opening four points of the game, but Barbados responded and closed the deficit to 5-3.
Barbados found it tough to deal with the quick passing and movement of New Zealand during the opening exchanges, but they settled and managed to remain in touching distance due to the excellent shooting of Shonica Wharton and Sheniqua Thomas who scored nine of their ten goal attempts.
New Zealand took a 16-9 advantage into the second quarter and they immediately began to build on their lead, extending it to 21 goals by the middle of the quarter.
The Gems struggled to put together any effective offensive play as they were limited to just one goal attempt in the first ten minutes of the quarter and despite a late flurry of goals, they were outscored by 26-5.
Led by some flawless shooting from Bailey Mes, who scored all 14 of her goal attempts in the quarter, and backed up by substitute Maria Folau’s 92% shooting, New Zealand took a 42-14 lead into half time.
The Silver Ferns kept their foot firmly on the pedal after the interval and continued to build their advantage as Te Paea Selby-Rickit replaced Folau and impressed, converting all 12 of her goal attempts.
Wharton continued to impress for Barbados with her shooting range and touch, but the Gems again found it tough to create scoring opportunities consistently, scoring six goals in the quarter as New Zealand increased their lead to 61-20.
The opening stages of the fourth quarter were much more even, as both sides traded scores before the Silver Ferns regained control of the contest.
The last time the two sides met in the Netball World Cup – in 2015 – New Zealand were 73-28 winners, and the scoreline began to head in a similar direction as the Silver Ferns confidently played out the remaining minutes to outscore Barbados 17-5 in the final quarter and take the victory.
Ultimately New Zealand proved to be too strong for Barbados and they will look to cement their place at the top of Group B when they face Singapore tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Gems will hope to return to winning ways when they take on Malawi in their final group game.
New Zealand’s Bailey Mes said:
“We’re just trying to be a little bit better every day and take whatever we can from one day to the next. Personally, I didn’t get on court yesterday so it was really good to get out there.”
Barbados goal shooter, Shonica Wharton, said:
“I think we performed well. We continued fighting even though we didn’t win, and I thought that we had a good team spirit and we performed all the way until the end. They were good at basically everything, but we can learn to be more confident and continue to keep pushing for more.”
The Gems extending their four-game winning streak over Singapore to five as their flowing game prevailed throughout each quarter, with strong shooting statistics being supported by turnover ball. Whilst Singapore showed promise in the third quarter, they were ultimately unable to contend with the speed of the Gems.
Barbados showed from the outset their intensity and dynamism. Tight player-on-player defence with a touch of added physical pressure presented an immediate challenge for Singapore.
Shonette Azore-Bruce – the tournament’s third oldest player – demonstrated her World Cup experience as she commanded her shooting circle, dictating the balls that were seamlessly fed into her.
Chairmaine Soh was a shining light for Singapore in the first quarter, but as the Gems began to stretch their legs, they also stretched their lead – to 17-6 at the end of the first 15.
Quarter two began with a new-look Singapore attack, and it initially showed promise. By opting for shorter and sharper passes in the attack and competing more for the ball in the through-court play, Singapore were able to deny the Gems opportunity to poach passes.
Changes made in the shooting end similarly deprived Latonia Blackman as much opportunity to turn over ball and Soh continued to shine for Singapore as she shot intelligently.
As the quarter progressed though, a general lack of execution prevented Singapore from making the most of their newly-found increased possession, whereas Barbados kept things ticking over, establishing a 33-14 half-time lead.
A new half saw another new Singaporean attacking line-up, and the improved connection in attack made Singapore a harder nut for the Gems to crack.
Xinyi Tan at goal shooter was able to support Soh, who had previously been carrying all the shooting duties, and with 83% (5/6) she committed to her task well. Barbados built momentum in the last minute of the quarter though, adding an extra three goals to their tally, breaking what had up until then been a goal-for-goal quarter.
Despite Singapore coming quickly out of the gates in the final quarter the Bajan Gems were a tour de force.
Shonica Wharton, coupled with Sheniqua Thomas, showed the expectant Liverpool crowd her shooting prowess with shots from all ranges and with a 92% accuracy, she enabled the Gems to quell any resurgent Singaporean spirit.
Barbados GD Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp said:
“We’re feeling great – it was great that we got all 12 players on the court, and we played a consistent game, which is what we wanted. It’s always great to start with a win, and to get the competition going and get a feel for the court as well.”
Singapore coach Natalie Milicich said:
“I think we actually improved as the match went on. Our lack of experience at this level certainly showed in those first few minutes, and to play catch-up against Barbados was always going to be hard, but I was really proud of how we chipped away and made improvements throughout the match.”