Both sides had won three times at the M&S Bank Arena prior to this one and had played each other three times at World Cups in the past, with Jamaica winning all of those encounters.
While Jamaica did conclude their tournament with a victory, this was always going to be their lowest finish at a World Cup since 1995 no matter the outcome here thanks to previous results earlier in the week.
Heading into the game, they were disappointed not to have continued their record of playing in the last five bronze medal matches, including in Sydney in 2015, though their 100% record in games against Malawi continued.
It was not long into the first quarter that Jamaica put down a marker, proving that they were determined to finish as high as possible in the competition despite not matching previous achievements.
Goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler of Jamaica, who turns 30 today, opened the scoring after 14 seconds, finding space inside the circle and clinically dispatching a clean shot – the perfect start on her birthday.
It wasn’t long before Fowler has plenty more reasons to celebrate as she and her team scored another 19 goals in the first quarter.
Her opposite number, the agile goal shooter of Malawi, Joyce Mvula, was picked out prior to the tournament as being one to watch. She, too, was heavily involved, but Malawi scored seven fewer times than their opponents to trail 20-13 at the 15-minute mark.
The first quarter, though, was not telling as to how the match would unfold, as Jamaica were made to work hard for their win.
Malawi pulled the scoreline back to 22-21 momentarily as they looked like overhauling their disadvantage before Jamaica slowed the onslaught. Malawi did draw level first at 24-24 and then 25-25, but the Sunshine Girls ended the quarter strongly, heading in for half-time leading 37-28.
That second quarter was a more reliable gauge for how the second half of the match would pan out, with Malawi looking threatening early on, before they ultimately succumbed to defeat.
The third quarter saw Jamaica increase their lead in the match overall once again as they conceded early on, only to go on and score 15 goals of their own. With just 15 minutes to play, they were almost there in terms of the result, leading by 11.
Both Jane Chimaliro and Thandie Galleta of Malawi were playing their 50th match for their country, but they did not earn the win that they would have wanted to mark that milestone.
Jamaica won the final quarter, too, by 16 goals to nine, winning the match by 18 overall. Following a tournament in which they set out to achieve a little bit more, the win was a welcome end to their campaign as Fowler and co. celebrated a closing-day victory.
Jamaica’s Jhaniele Fowler said of her birthday win:
“(To win today) was an ok present – I didn’t want that, I wanted a medal for my birthday, but unfortunately, I got fifth.
“We had a few turnovers which caused Malawi to come back, but fortunately, we got ahead. As a leader, things will happen and we have to stand tall. You have to be the one who does the best that they can do to the best of their ability.
“A lot of things caused us to perform and be where we are at the moment. Hopefully, we can fix those and change those things.”
Mvula’s Malawi beat rivals Uganda today to set up a fifth-place play-off against Jamaica on Sunday.
With South Africa in the semi-finals and Zimbabwe to battle Uganda for seventh place, half of the top eight countries at this World Cup are African – a first for the tournament.
The next World Cup – in 2023 – will be held in South Africa, and Mvula believes that African netball is thriving.
“I think now netball is Africa is coming up, so we just want to encourage other teams in Africa to work hard. We can be there – everything is possible.
“It (the World Cup in 2023) is a good opportunity for us, and some players can travel to watch the World Cup, which can help a lot. Just watching can prove a lot, and that’s great for the African nations.”
Malawi – like Uganda and Zimbabwe – have brought plenty of colour and exuberance to this tournament, and celebrated today’s win by dancing off court.
“This is what we do as Malawi – we entertain people! I just want to say thanks to the Malawi fans and my family, who have put me where I am today. I want to thank them for their support.”
Behind the fun, there is a serious edge to the Malawi’s aims in Liverpool – their guaranteed top-six finish belies their new world ranking of ninth.
Of that, Mvula said:
“We are now number nine in the world, but the two teams in seventh and eighth didn’t beat us, so it was hard for us. That’s what we discussed as a team – to fight for our position. That helped us a lot. If we were coming in as number six, we’d have been relaxed, but we came in to fight for our position.
“People were writing us off, so this is good for them – to know them we’re coming up.”
In 2007, Malawi famously defeated South Africa to register a significant fifth place in Auckland. Their win today ensures they will be competing in the fifth-place play-off match for the fourth consecutive World Cup.
If they are to equal their exploits of 12 years ago, they will need to find a way past world number two, Jamaica. Uganda, meanwhile, will hope to go one better than their eighth place in Sydney in 2015, when they take on tournament newcomers Zimbabwe in the play-off for seventh.
Malawi took advantage of early Ugandan nerves, racing into a 4-0 lead as Joyce Mvula wasted no time in finding her scoring touch.
Rachael Nanyonga was the first to register for Uganda, however there was no knocking Mvula from her stride, and when Lilian Ajio’s pass went astray, Malawi extended their lead to five.
Jane Chimaliro got in on the scoring act to take the score to 11-6, before, in the opposite circle, Peace Proscovia was penalised for footwork.
She soon made amends though, and Uganda cut the deficit to just three as they began to compete more effectively. Their momentum was halted when Nanyonga took too long on the ball and another overthrown pass gave Malawi opportunity to extend the lead, but an interception allowed Uganda to narrow to 12-9 at the quarter break.
More Ugandan wastefulness at the start of the second quarter was punished, as the lead went out to five. Malawi then looked to have returned the favour, when untidy passing presented Uganda with the ball, but they were unable to capitalise.
Mvula then scored her 15th – and Malawi’s 20th – goal of the game to take the lead out to 20-14, as Malawi were able to exploit the space behind Uganda’s mid-court players.
Malawi ended the half as they had started, firing on all cylinders to hold a 27-19 advantage at the break.
Mary Nuba Cholock stepped into the Uganda attack for the second half, and her presence made a difference immediately as she registered two early strikes.
An enormous leap by Proscovia, now playing goal attack, helped Uganda pull back to 32-27, and the crowd inside the M&S Bank Arena sensed that a comeback could be on.
However this hope was dampened by more loose possession from the She Cranes.
Cholock and Proscovia were still proving a potent combination, but Mvula was equally effectively at the other end, landing the final goal of the quarter to make the score 41-35.
Uganda wasted their first centre pass of the fourth and the deficit was back to seven. Cholock was then penalised, and a long pass gave Mvula the opportunity to extend the lead to 43-36.
A stretching interception from Stella Oyella at centre should have led to the margin being reduced, but once again the opportunity went begging.
Chimaliro got in amongst the goals for Malawi as time began to run out for the Ugandans, as she took the Queens’ lead out to 49-41.
Mvula took the advantage into double figures, and while Nanyonga registered the game’s final goal, the celebrations on the final whistle belonged to Malawi.
Not to be outdone by the post-game rhythm of the Zimbabweans, the Queens brought their own exuberance and energy to the court – celebrating their qualification for the fifth-place play-off with their vocal fans.
South Africa are in the semi-finals, while Uganda, Zimbabwe and Malawi are still in the hunt for fifth, meaning that this is the the first ever tournament at which four African nations will have finished in the top eight.
Proscovia, whose Uganda play Malawi tomorrow, said:
“It’s great news for the development of netball in Africa generally. For South Africa to push up into the top four is amazing – that is all of Africa performing and we are so proud of it.”
Of the battle for fifth – between the three remaining African nations and Jamaica – she said:
“It’s amazing to have all of us compete again, and it’s a great procedure that allows us to have a hope of getting to fifth. But all I can say is let the best team win – we are going to come in well prepared.”
Vinkhumbo was outstanding as the Queens beat Zimbabwe 59-43 today, securing third place in Group F.
That status means that they will play the fourth-placed team in Group G for the right to compete in the fifth-place play-off on Sunday, and Vinkhumbo says that a top-six finish would mean the world to the Queens.
“It was sad when we moved down the world rankings – from number six to number nine. We got the news when we were here, so we need to make sure we beat all of the teams around us.
“We have only lost to Australia and to New Zealand, and now we want to maintain our position by winning all the games that are coming up. It would mean a lot to finish in the top six.”
Both Malawi and Zimbabwe knew that a victory today could give them – at least on paper – a more favourable next fixture, and the Malawians showed their delight at their victory by joining their fans in joyous celebrations after the game.
“We are having fun! We planned that if we beat Zimbabwe, we would dance. They danced as we entered the court, so we said if we beat them we would dance afterwards!”
The Queens continued their impressive tournament so far, and have now given themselves a real chance of securing a top six finish.
The match was the first ever World Cup meeting between the sides, who had both impressed during the tournament so far.
Malawi were able to bring Joyce Mvula back into the team, while Zimbabwe were again backed by their increasing band of supporters, whose vocal and vibrant backing of their team – World Cup debutants – has become a fantastic feature of the competition.
It was the Zimbabweans who started the better, taking advantage of what was a scrappy start to the game to establish a 4-1 lead, but some good work defensively from Towera Vinkhumbo allowed Malawi to find their feet, and then come roaring back.
Mvula and the ever-dependable Jane Chimaliro helped to take the scoreline out to 10-5 in the Queens’ favour, before the teams traded goals in a more even period, to end the first quarter at 12-8 to the Malawians.
Zimbabwe brought on the talismanic figure of Pauline Jani for the second quarter, and she made a positive impact, scoring with her first three attempts early on in the quarter.
However, the dominant figure in the goal third was undoubtedly Vinkhumbo, and her assured play was replicated further up the court as Malawi embarked upon a scoring streak.
They took their lead out to ten (22-12) midway through the quarter, and despite a mini Zimbabwean revival – encouraged by their passionate support – the margin stayed consistent at half time, with Malawi going in 28-18 up.
The Queens took that momentum into the third quarter, scoring the first seven goals of the segment as Vinkhumbo’s outstanding performance continued, and Mvula and Chimaliro continued to work well together in the opposing circle.
Joice Takaidza registered Zimbabwe’s first goal of the quarter six minutes in, and the Zim Gems put together a much more cohesive performance in the second half of the quarter, eventually only losing it by four.
However, Malawi’s overall lead was growing, and was out to 43-29 by the end of the third period.
The final quarter was to prove the tightest of the game, as Zimbabwe put together an impressive finish, but Malawi had done more than enough to sew up victory and go into the play-off and placing games with real confidence.
The outstanding Vinkhumbo was replaced with three minutes left – Malawi’s first change of the match – while there was a more worrying substitution for Zimbabwe, who saw Takaidza leave the arena via a wheelchair after a collision.
Malawi will now play the fourth-placed finishers in Group G to determine who will play-off for fifth place.
Player of the Match Vinkhumbo said:
“We are happy because we wanted to beat Zimbabwe. They are a tough team and they have been doing good in their games so far, so we really wished to win this game.
“I am so pleased with my performance because it’s motivated me for the games remaining. I knew that if I intercepted more balls, it would give an advantage to our side.”
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 disappointment felt by Dan Ryan’s team was in stark contrast to the Malawians, who kept alive their dream of appearing in a maiden Vitality Netball World Cup semi-final.
Coming into the game, fans will have expected to see a close game between the sides ranked 6th and 8th in the world, and they were not disappointed.
Malawi – who included within their ranks Joanna Kachilika, who was making her 100th international appearance – attacked from the first centre pass, and opened the scoring. Northern Ireland’s initial attack saw the ball pass through the net but the goal was ruled out for an infringement.
However Northern Ireland kept pressing, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 advantage. Noleen Armstrong and Emma Magee added a further four goals to take the game out to 8-4, before Malawi suffered a blow when their centre, Thandie Galleta, limped off after nine minutes. Despite this setback, the Malawi Queens rallied towards the end of the quarter, with the shooting of Sindi Simtowe helping to take the score out to 12-9 in their favour.
Northern Ireland started the second quarter brightly and forced interceptions, with Armstrong taking full advantage of the bonus opportunities to once again see the Warriors in front by 13-12.
However in a seesawing game, it was the Africans who registered the next two successful efforts on goal. Armstrong’s miss allowed Malawi to edge further ahead by 17-14. Joyce Mvula replaced Simtowe and made an impression immediately, shooting at 100% as Malawi stretched their lead out to four.
Northern Irish centre Caroline O’ Hanlon was at the heart of everything, and she was instrumental again as they wrestled back some momentum at the end of the half, with Armstrong’s buzzer beater ensuring they went in just two behind, at 22-20.
The unerring Mvula opened the scoring in the second half, before Armstrong replied in kind. Jane Chimaliro then contributed a brace to give Malawi a three-goal cushion, which was the platform the Queens needed to kick on.
Mvula’s accuracy in the circle continued, and was unmatched at the other end, as Malawi took their lead out to nine. Northern Ireland continued to fight though – spurred on by the pain of yesterday’s two-goal defeat to Zimbabwe – and they were able to bring the deficit back down to two going into the final quarter.
With Malawi having started the quarter on the front foot, Magee took what looked a nasty tumble in the attacking third, before getting back to her feet and seeing her next shot eventually find the net to bring the Warriors back to within two.
Errors started to creep in though, and Mvula was in no mood to let them off the hook, shooting superbly as the Queens took the lead back out to a commanding seven goals. Northern Ireland reduced the gap late on, but ultimately Malawi’s movement and clinical shooting earned them the victory.
Malawi’s Joanna Kachilika, winning her 100th cap, said:
“It was a tough game, it was not easy. Northern Ireland played really well. We worked hard as a team. We have the fighting spirit, and that enabled us to win the game.
“I was surprised when I was told it was my 100th game. I am so happy and thankful to have played one hundred international games.”
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 Queens bounced back resoundingly from their defeat to New Zealand, winning 87-38.
A footwork error by Singapore on the first pass of the game initially put them on the back foot, but as they relaxed into the match they began to even things out.
However, with the reliable presence of Joyce Mvula shooting at 95% in the Queens’ attacking circle, and with a steady flow of ball from the defence, it wasn’t long before Malawi found their footing and ploughed quickly onwards, to lead 27-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Heading into the second, Singapore switched things up in their defensive end with substitutes coming on.
The changes proved fruitful. Whilst still physically challenged by Malawi on the ball, Singapore were able to compete more readily with the Queens. This, coupled with Charmaine Soh converting 12 goals from 13 attempts, led to the Singaporeans producing a much-improved quarter performance, although they still trailed 45-20 at half time.
Malawi came out of the blocks fastest as the whistle started the second half, and despite changes up and down the court, the new-look Queens displayed the same fluidity and instinct as the previous line-up.
Singapore, on the other hand, struggled shooting-wise in the third quarter. Their goal attack Kai Wei Toh, under the pressure of the Malawi defence, only managed 55% in the quarter, as Malawi extended their lead out to 63-30.
Singapore once more tinkered with their line-up in a bid to try and face the Malawi charge, which continued, unrelenting in the final quarter. However, the full court defensive pressure from the Queens ultimately became too much for Singapore, who were unable to produce a response, and ultimately went down 87-38 – with Malawi’s total their second highest ever in a single World Cup match.
Malawi’s goal shooter Joyce Mvula said:
“We feel much better. Yesterday was a hard time for us but we kept on going. We just have to keep the momentum going tomorrow, where we have to win. I know it’s not easy but we just have to be strong.”