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.”
With just seconds remaining, the Fijians turned the ball over in their own defensive third and worked possession rapidly to Lydia Panapasa, who finished the move off but a split second too late. The goal did not stand and Samoa were able to celebrate the narrowest of wins – their first of the tournament.
The teams came into the meeting off the back of three defeats in Preliminaries stage one, and their previous head-to-head record at World Cups – two wins apiece – hinted at the evenly-matched nature of the contest.
Samoa got off to a fast start, scoring six unanswered goals. Once Fiji found their feet though, the shooting of Panapasa and Unaisi Rauluni inspired a spectacular first-quarter comeback, and ensured the second half of the quarter was far more even, and finished 18-16 to the Samoans.
A goal from Sanita To’o pushed that lead out to three early in the second quarter, and history repeated itself as the Samoans again scored six without reply. Fiji again found their feet late in the quarter, but slipped further behind as the half-time whistle blew with Samoa boasting a healthy 33-20 advantage.
A much stronger start to the third quarter spurred the Fijians on, and they began to grow further in confidence as they ate away at Samoa’s advantage. After drawing level, Rauluni scored the goal which saw them go in front for the first time, at 40-39. They ended the quarter 42-40 up.
Precision shooting from Toa Tanimo and Tee Salanoa saw Samoa roar back into contention in the early stages of the final quarter, and the teams could barely be separated as they continued to trade goals. It was Samoa who broke that pattern to go 49-47 clear.
They held an advantage until the final few seconds, seemingly able to keep safe possession and run down the clock to keep their one-goal lead. However Fiji intercepted, broke down court and were denied a sensational tie by the smallest of margins.
Lydia Panapasa said:
“I think the last shot was in, but the girls did really great – we put all our effort into the game and played to the last whilst which is really positive.
“I feel we need to work on getting our rhythm in the first quarter, as the last quarter is always a do-or-die quarter. We should do that in the first quarter instead.”
The two teams came into the meeting off the back of defeats to Jamaica and South Africa, with Trinidad and Tobago holding the superior historical record over their opponents, having won the previous three World Cup meetings.
Trinidad and Tobago started quickly, with centre Candice Gueroro particularly influential across the court as her side established an early lead.
Despite being put on the back foot, Fiji soon found their rhythm and Lydia Panapasa and Unaisi Rauluni began to have an impact in the shooting circle. However, Trinidad and Tobago retained their dominance in the middle of the court, and they led at the end of the first quarter by 23-10.
Fiji upped their game in the second quarter, ensuring a much more even contest. The teams traded goals, with Samantha Wallace impressing in front of the net and Kalifa McCollin ably supporting her with some excellent positional play.
As the quarter progressed both Panapasa and Rauluni were shooting at over 90% for the Fijians, but they were starved of the service needed to really pull Trinidad and Tobago back. At half time, the Calypso Girls led 40-25.
Both teams struggled to settle in the third quarter, with the two previous defeats in their tired legs beginning to show. Fiji again made a strong attempt of keeping up with Trinidad and Tobago though, losing the quarter by just two goals – an overall advantage of 57-40 for the Calypso Girls to take into the final quarter.
Fiji admirably upped their game in the final quarter though, retaining possession much better than they had done previously and nullifying Trinidad and Tobago’s much-changed attack.
Despite their best efforts though – and eventual 16-10 margin of victory in the final quarter – it was too little too late to reel Trinidad and Tobago back in, as the Calypso Girls completed a 67-56 victory.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa McCollin said:
“As a unit we were very good – much better than our previous matches. It’s all learning from here. Going into the next round I know it’s going to be tough so we’ll go back to the drawing board and work on things we need to.”
Fiji, who have the youngest average age of any squad at the tournament, lost heavily 85-29 in their opening game against Jamaica. It was a similar story here.
Only two members of their travelling party played at the World Cup in 2015; for the rest, this is their first experience of a tournament at this level.
The pair had only met once previously at a World Cup, back in 1999, with South Africa winning that game 57-49.
The match began at rapid speed, with the raucous Fiji supporters making plenty of noise in the stands. They could do nothing, however, to prevent South Africa from storming into a 12-2 lead less than six minutes into the contest.
Lenize Potgieter and Renske Stoltz were ruthless in front of the net, while centre Izette Griesel, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, turning 27 on the same day as her country opened their World Cup campaign with a victory, dominated proceedings from the middle third of the court.
Wing attack Bongiwe Msomi, who started the match to earn her 100th South Africa cap, was also getting the better of her direct opponent, Fiji wing defence Ema Mualuvu.
South Africa continued to press forward in search of more goals and were leading comfortably after the first segment of the match. By the end of the first quarter, the Proteas were leading by 15 goals, 24-9.
As the second period began, South Africa were able to press on further, safe in the knowledge that they had built up a substantial lead early on in the game.
With Fiji’s passing lacking slickness, South Africa were able to pick off loose balls with ease, capitalising on even small errors of judgement on several occasions and counter-attacking to excellent effect.
Potgieter took her attempts record to 33 goals from 34 shots in the game at the halfway mark, as South Africa cruised in for half-time with a 28-goal advantage.
Goal shooter Sigrid Burger, 23, replaced Potgieter at half-time, and she immediately made her mark on the match with three quick-fire goals in the space of 90 seconds.
Before the third quarter was up, Burger had added a further 10 goals to her tally, with goal attack Stoltz also chipping in with seven.
At the end of the penultimate quarter, South Africa’s lead had been stretched to 42 goals, with the score standing at 67-25.
With the result all but wrapped up, Maryka Holtzhausen replaced Stoltz as goal shooter for the final 15 minutes.
She scored six times as South Africa comfortably strolled over the line to a resounding 90-35 win.
South Africa will be hoping to maintain their 100% record when they face Jamaica, who have also won both of their matches so far, tomorrow. The winner of that game will finish top of Group C.
Having lost by 56 goals in their first game and now by 55 here, Fiji were once again well beaten, although their fans inside the M&S Bank Arena maintained their vocal support. They will play Trinidad and Tobago as the Preliminaries Stage One conclude.
Jamaica got off to a strong start, with goal shooter Romelda Aiken towering above her opponents to score twice. Fiji were unfazed though, and while Jamaica’s attack dominated, they were unable to settle themselves in the first five minutes and missed a handful of opportunities.
They got into their attacking stride though, building a healthy lead as the first quarter progressed. Once Fiji managed to break through Jamaica’s strong defence, they too showed glimpses of promise in the attacking third, despite ending the first quarter 19-8 adrift.
Fiji came back strong in the second quarter, scoring in the opening minute. Jamaica quickly seized control though, keeping their opponents out for a full ten minutes while consistently building their lead. Fiji regained some strength in the final five minutes, with Laisani Waqa scoring three times and Lydia Panapasa scoring in the final 10 seconds of the quarter.
Despite the brief rebuilding job though, when the half time whistle blew Jamaica were comfortably ahead: 40-14.
A dominant third quarter saw the Jamaicans add 27 goals to their total, with substitute Jhaniele Fowler contributing the lion’s share of those.
Jamaica’s experience and strength was really starting to show, as Fiji’s young team – which included a host of World Cup debutants – struggled to stop the flow. They remained resilient though, and brought on fresh legs which posed a new challenge for the Sunshine Girls in the fourth quarter.
Lydia Panapasa and Unaisi Rauluni took their opportunities when they got on to court, but Jamaica showed their class to wrap up a comfortable 85-29 win.
Jamaica’s Vangelee Williams said:
“I feel happy about the win. It wasn’t our best performance but the fact that we could make use of everybody today – we maintained the lead and we maintained our dominance.
“We threw away a lot of balls carelessly – we need to clean up on those simple errors. We need to fix those because we know in the bigger games it will cost us more.”
Fiji’s Lydia Panapasa said:
“The girls did good against the number two team in the world – there are a lot of positives for us to take. This is my first world cup and it’s been amazing – everyone is really supportive. We have family coming to watch and the atmosphere is really good.”