In a game which saw momentum swing on multiple occasions, the Samoans’ dominant second quarter was ultimately the difference as they ran out 53-42 winners.
The match carried with it extra significance, after the previous meeting between the teams had ended 55-54 to the Samoans, with Fiji denied a last-gasp goal which was adjudged to have been scored too late.
Lydia Panapasa, who thought she had scored that late equaliser, started on the bench for Fiji, but her team-mates began with a real flourish, racing into a 3-0 lead.
Matila Vocea and Unaisi Rauluni kept up their intensity as the advantage went out to six at 9-3, while Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro and Kelera Nawai were also combining well at the other end of the court to limit Samoa’s opportunities.
The Samoans eventually found their rhythm though, and narrowed the gap by scoring five consecutive goals to bring the scoreline back to 11-10.
The they turned the ball over, but carelessly gave away possession again by taking a backline pass too early and allowing Vocea the opportunity to stretch the lead back out to two, at 13-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Clearly stung by losing the first quarter, Samoa quickly levelled proceedings in the second, through Toa Tanimo. After a scrappy phase of play, they really seized the initiative, quickly taking the score out to 18-14.
Panapasa made her entrance with five minutes of the quarter gone, as Fiji tried to address the dramatic swing in momentum. She failed to make an immediate impression though, missing her first attempt of the game.
Samoa, by contrast, had moved up a gear, and a flurry of interceptions allowed them to turnover play on a regular basis, extending their lead to eight, at 24-16.
The frustration was getting to the Fijians, which was reflected as Panapasa allowed the ball to slip through her grip in the circle, setting up another Samoan attack. With the clock having ticked right down, Sanita To’o missed the opportunity to crown a glorious second quarter for Samoa with another goal, however they went in at the break in a comfortable position, leading 25-16.
Samoa kept that momentum initially in the third quarter, stretching their lead out to ten, at 29-19. However a lengthy stoppage in play to allow Soli Ropati to receive treatment after a particularly heavy-looking fall disrupted the early rhythm in the quarter, and it would be Fiji who seized the opportunity to find some form of their own.
Much better, more flowing play from the Fijians at one stage saw a much more effective Panapasa score five consecutive goals, bringing the deficit right down to five at 36-31. It could have got even closer, but a wild pass from Alisi Galo allowed Samoa to regain both possession and some composure, closing the quarter with two quickfire goals to take their lead back out to 38-31.
Samoa again began a quarter well, taking the first two goals of the fourth. Fiji then came roaring back though, with Panapasa again proving their most effective option as they slowly ate into the deficit yet again.
After a collision between Rauluni and Gene Solia-Gibb, then Fijian goal attack limped away – clearly struggling – to set up Panapasa for another goal, as the gap came down to five at 42-37.
Errors then crept in again though, including a fumble in the circle by Panapasa when she was ideally positioned under the post on her own.
Samoa regained an element of control, and were able to see the game out 53-42 to ensure they took that 13th spot.
Samoa’s Brooke Williams said:
“We didn’t want to put ourselves in that situation again (winning the previous meeting by one) so we knew we had to come out hard and cherish the ball we had. It got a bit rough there towards the end, but we had the composure and I’m really proud of the girls.”
Fiji beat Sri Lanka today to set up a repeat of one of the most dramatic games of the tournament so far: they will now play Samoa for the right to finish 13th, having lost out to them by a single goal earlier on in the competition.
Fiji – through Lydia Panapasa – thought they had levelled proceedings up in the final seconds on that occasion, but the goal was adjudged to have been scored just too late to count, meaning that Samoa took a 55-54 victory.
“There are always thoughts of revenge – we want to win,” said Wilson, after her team’s victory over Sri Lanka.
“To be the best team in that Oceania region – apart from New Zealand – is something we’ve been wanting and been talking about, so if we can achieve that it would be great.
“A day’s rest and a good recovery is what we need now, and then we look forward to having that opportunity to battle it out with Samoa again.”
Today’s 59-44 victory was Fiji’s second in the tournament after their win over Singapore yesterday, and Wilson is delighted with the way her team have grown into their task.
“I’m really pleased. We’ve been getting better with every game, which was what we came in wanting achieve. I thought defensively today we got a lot more ball, and that put us in a great position going into that second half.”
On the injuries suffered by Panapasa and Episake Kahatoka, Wilson added:
“I haven’t spoken to the medical team yet, so fingers crossed they’re not too serious.”
This morning’s match was effectively a play-off to decide who would face Samoa in the 13th-place game and who will face Singapore for 15th place – and it was Fiji who prevailed, 59-44.
This was the fifth meeting at a World Cup between the two sides, with Fiji having won all of the previous four matches, including a 77-31 victory at the last competition in Sydney in 2015.
Given the first four matches of the tournament, this fixture was expected to be a reasonably closely-contested encounter. Fiji currently occupy 17th spot in the international netball world rankings, while Sri Lanka are just one place behind in 18th.
Episake Kahatoka, the Fiji goalkeeper, will have studied the expert performance from Samoan counterpart Lenora Misa against Sri Lanka’s Tharjini Sivalingam yesterday – as she earned Player of the Match against the goal shooter – and applied herself with similar success.
Sivalingam – top scorer at the tournament over the first five days, and with 93% accuracy overall prior to the start of the game – was earning her 100th cap here, but Kahatoka restricted her chances with five aggressive interceptions inside the opening 15 minutes.
Sivalingam did score nine times in the first period, but given that Sri Lanka’s strategy centres largely on feeding her the ball as often and as quickly as possible, the Fijian defence had coped admirably.
With goals exchanged frequently at either end, the first quarter concluded with Sri Lanka edging in front, 11-10.
After Sivalingam was thwarted fairly effectively in the first quarter, in the second, she seemed to be put off her stride. When she got the ball in her hands she inevitably converted, but that only happened on five occasions. Less than 40 seconds before the break, she was taken off.
Having fallen behind in the first quarter, Fiji scored 17 times before the interval, including eight times through goal attack Unaisi Rauluni who was earning cap number 36, and conceded only nine. At half-time, it was they who had established a seven-goal lead.
That advantage was only set to increase further, as the third quarter began with a flurry of Fijian goals. Goal shooter Matila Vocea was pivotal in firing her side into a 14-goal lead as Fiji flexed their attacking muscle.
Having started the match so well, Sri Lanka were now firmly on the backfoot. Gayanjali Amarawansa, winning her 38th cap, started the game at centre for Sri Lanka before she moved to wing attack and then back to centre again. She, like many others in yellow and red, was by now struggling to keep meaningful possession.
A deluge of Fiji goals was halted abruptly as Kahatoka hobbled off to be replaced by Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro following a fall, but even missing their excellent goalkeeper, they were barely threatened as the quarter played out. The deluge merely became a steady flow.
Bolakoro admirably took on the task of dealing with Sivalingam, who had now returned to the court, while Vocea and Rauluni increased the goal difference to 19.
At the three-quarter mark, the result was almost safe for Fiji, and they had the fairly simple task of coasting home to victory, leading 47-28 at this point in the game.
Sri Lanka narrowly won the final quarter by four goals, but Fiji’s 12 goals took the final scoreline to 59-44.
Both the 13th-place game – involving Fiji and Samoa – and the 15th-place game between Sri Lanka and Singapore, will take place during session 15, on Friday morning.
Fiji’s Kelera Nawai said:
“We worked hard, we worked together and we pushed. It was an important game. We’re very happy. We wanted to win that game because we wanted a rematch with Samoa (after the 55-54 defeat against them earlier in the tournament).
“They’re going to come hard again – we’re expecting them to come hard. We’re just going to keep pushing and try to win the (Samoa) game.”
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.”