The result, coupled with England’s earlier win over Jamaica, means that the Roses and Proteas are locked on six points each at the top of the group, ahead of Thursday’s potential group decider.
Scotland more than held their own against their higher-ranked opponents in the early stages, capitalising on the fumble in South Africa’s attack to open up a 5-3 lead.
South Africa’s threat was never far away though, and good interplay between Bongiwe Msomi, Izette Griesel and Renske Stoltz saw them claw their way back and eventually establish a 15-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
They extended that lead in the second quarter, as their composure and quality began to tell, and to force mistakes from the Thistles. The Proteas, by contrast, were making fewer errors and Lenize Potgieter looked particularly good in the circle, helping her side to take a 32-20 lead into the break.
South Africa’s attack was changed in the third quarter, but the new combination of Sigrid Burger and Maryka Holtzhausen continued to push the Proteas on, as the young Thistles side struggled to find opportunities.
Emma Barrie did add new impetus to the Scots’ attack after coming on, but South Africa continued to move further clear, ending the third quarter 49-32 up.
With the result beyond doubt, the final quarter was a more defensive affair, as each team struggled to find goal opportunities in the first five minutes. The tiredness began to show in Scotland, who were coming off the back of an energy-sapping defeat against Uganda, while Burger and Holtzhausen kept the scoreboard ticking over for South Africa, who finished 66-38 winners.
Scotland’s Emma Barrie said:
“We had some good stuff out on court but we were lacking consistency. We’ll go back and look at some analysis, see where we went wrong and try and fix it for our next match.”
In what turned out to be the tightest game of the tournament so far, Scotland were quick to the mark from the centre pass. The Thistles attack tactfully opted for low movement around their shooting circle which saw Lynsey Gallagher get them off to a solid start.
The teams traded early blows, before an obstruction against the Ugandan centre saw the She Cranes take their opportunity to edge ahead.
They then capitalised on a missed opportunity by Scotland’s goal shooter Emma Barrie to pull three goals ahead, and as they built momentum the She Cranes’ defence and attack were equally as impressive. Impeccable precision in the shooting circle by both Stella Oyella and Peace Proscovia saw them finish the quarter 16-11 up.
They were able to extend this lead still further in the second quarter, despite the tireless determination of Emily Nicholl and Hayley Muleron to restrict their attacking options. By half time, the Ugandan lead had stretched out to seven, with the score 29-21.
The third quarter saw the Scots eat into that lead, though, as Barrie and Lynsey Gallagher upped their shooting percentages as the Thistles unsettled their opponents and brought the score back to within seven.
Any potential comeback was snuffed out by the Ugandans though, as they brought on Mary Nuba Cholock to assist Proscrovia in their shooting-circle, which allowed Oyella to drop to back to control centre court and see Uganda over the line.
Scotland’s Claire Maxwell, who was playing in her 100th international, said:
“It was great to play in such a fantastic atmosphere and such a big World Cup. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win but we’ll push on for the next game – we will refresh and go again. It’s such a young squad and we can learn so much so we’re really looking forward to the next stage.”
Emma Barrie added:
“It was quite frustrating. We could have won that game but we did our best and that’s all we can do. My shooting could have been better but if it’s not 100% then I just need to keep trying.”
England coach Tracey Neville chose to rotate her squad; Jo Harten, Geva Mentor and captain Serena Guthrie were all named on the sub’s bench from the start.
By contrast, Gail Parata – Neville’s counterpart for Scotland – selected an unchanged starting seven, keeping faith with the players who had earned their opening-day win over Samoa.
England started positively, as a first-minute interception by Jade Clarke led to Rachel Dunn slotting home. The goal shooter then added four goals in quick succession to give the Roses a 5-1 lead.
After a nervy start though, Scotland rallied to bring the score to 9-6. As they stretched away again though, England were dealt a blow when Layla Guscoth limped off in the closing stages of the first quarter – a quarter which England ended 18-9 ahead.
Housby opened the scoring in the second quarter, before attacking partner Dunn then kept up her 100% accuracy. Scotland’s Bethan Goodwin was starting to find her range after a wayward first quarter, however England continued to benefit from some loose Scotland passing to extend the scoreline to 25-13.
The crowd lapped up a stunning pass from Dunn, who then finished the move by netting her 17th goal. Following another intercepted Claire Maxwell pass, Housby was then able to extend the Roses’ lead to 13 goals.
It was deep into the second quarter when Dunn registered her first missed attempt, however it mattered not to the partisan crowd, as England went in at half time 35-20 in front.
For the second half, Neville made several positional changes, bringing on Chelsea Pitman, Natalie Haythornwaite and Guthrie. The latter was straight into her stride, with a trademark interception setting up Dunn’s 29th goal of the game.
Scotland took their turn to make some substitutions, with Maxwell not having the impact she would have hoped for. Dunn’s reach and ability to find space meant that she was still excelling in the shooting circle, and her buzzer beater took the third quarter score to 55-26.
In the fourth, Scotland ceded possession from their initial centre pass; the desire of the England defenders for the ball, as so often, proving decisive. Goal number 40 for Dunn extended England’s lead to almost 30, however Lynsey Gallagher’s 92% shooting accuracy was keeping the scoreboard ticking for the Thistles.
Fittingly though, Dunn was in the action right up until the end, finishing with 49 of England’s 70 goals, from her 52 attempts.
England’s Jo Harten said:
“I think it was a pretty clinical performance in the end – maybe patchy in parts, but that’s what you get in a World Cup, when you’re backing up day after day. We’re pleased with how we pulled up from a really physical game against Uganda yesterday and onwards and upwards for Samoa tomorrow.”
Scotland’s Emily Nicholl said:
“I think it was a tough game but it’s a really good test for us ahead of Uganda. Tough, but we’re proud of what we put out there. We set targets before the match and we feel that we hit most of them, so we’re on track and we’re looking forward to the rest of the competition now.”
In a hard-fought match which brought the curtain down on day 1 of the tournament, Samoa put in a solid opening quarter, only for Scotland to assert their dominance in the middle period of the match.
The first quarter started with both sides trading three early goals apiece. A burst from the Thistles saw them establish the first significant lead of the match, but a miss under the net allowed Samoa to come back. Two goals separated the teams at the end of the first quarter, with the one of the closest ties of the day in prospect.
Scotland were the first to open the scoring in the second quarter, but were then fortunate that the interception of their centre pass was not punished.
Samoan goal shooter Toa Tanimo was enjoying a prolific spell in front of goal, helping to bring the scoreline back to 15-14. However, good combination play by the Thistles attacking duo of Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher helped Scotland to establish an eight-goal lead at the break.
Scotland started the second half in the same manner as they had left off, with confident interplay seeing them push the score out to 27-17. Samoa, by contrast, were struggling to string passes together and the deficit grew to 14.
Samoa goal attack Eseta Autagavaia picked up a rare goal on what was a frustrating day for her, but Scotland added another to finish the quarter with a 41-26 advantage.
Scotland pressed ahead in the fourth quarter, stretching their lead to a comfortable winning margin before acknowledging their vocal support.
Scotland centre Claire Maxwell said:
“The World Cup is fantastic, the atmosphere in there was brilliant. There were patches where we were excellent. If we can keep going and raising our game, we will be pleased. We did our research really well and got better and better through the game. The first quarter… maybe it was nerves, but we did not get our flow going. From the second quarter onwards, we really got into our groove.”
Three teams. Two places.
Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are set to go head-to-head to be the first two teams to qualify for the Netball World Cup 2019 when they meet at the Regional Qualifier- Europe in Perth, Scotland from 19-21 January.
With the three teams ranked 8th, 9th and 11th respectively in the INF world rankings, the tournament will be closely contested as they compete to book their place in Liverpool.
With host nations England qualifying automatically, the three teams will battle it out to secure the two qualifying places available for the International Netball Federation Europe region.
Find out more about the qualification process for the World Cup here.
Friday 19 January
Scotland v Wales 7:30pm
Saturday 20 January
Wales v Northern Ireland 3:00pm
Sunday 21 January
Scotland v Northern Ireland 12:00 noon
After finishing second (to England) at October’s Netball Europe Open Championships, Northern Ireland head into the qualifier as the highest ranked of the three teams. But as executive manager Karen Rollo explains, this is no guarantee of qualification.
“The World Cup qualifier is a massive event for us. Having narrowly missed out on the last World Cup, we know the impact this can have both on our performance opportunities and financially.
“The squad are ready and while qualification from the European region is extremely difficult with all three countries being within the top 11 rankings, I am confident the squad will deliver in Perth and be part of what will be an amazing event in Liverpool 2019.”
Despite the anticipated close nature of the tournament, Rollo is still confident that Northern Ireland can progress and successfully book their place in Liverpool.
“Above all else, our players deserve to be there; I’ve witnessed first-hand the dedication and commitment of the athletes, management team and support staff to ensure we are the best we can be”.
Full squad: Kyla Bowman, Lisa Bowman, Niamh Cooper, Michelle Drayne, Gemma Lawlor, Noleen Lennon, Michelle Magee, Lisa McCaffrey, Oonagh McCullough, Caroline O’Hanlon (C), Fionnuala Toner, Neamh Woods
The Scotland squad will feature a blend of youth and experience, which is an exciting prospect for Scottish Thistles captain Claire Brownie, who believes the team is in a good position going into the tournament.
“Our preparation going into the tournament has been the best it’s ever been.” Brownie explains. “We’re working hard to ensure we do everything possible to be ready to compete and win both our games.”
Having been in the Scotland squad that missed out on qualification for the 2011 World Cup in Singapore, Brownie knows the stakes are high and it’s going to be a tough tournament for all three teams.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a close tournament,” says Brownie. “All three countries deserve to be at the Netball World Cup but it will depend on which teams play their best netball on the day. The level of netball in the region has never been higher, so we have an incredibly tough weekend ahead of us, but I am confident the Thistles will qualify.”
“With the tournament being held in Liverpool we know we would get amazing Scottish support at the games, so that is an extra incentive for us to keep focused on our target of qualifying.”
Full squad: Claire Brownie (C), Lynsey Gallagher (VC), Ella Gibbons, Bethan Goodwin, Niamh McCall, Nic McCleery, Hayley Mulheron, Sam Murphy, Emily Nicholl, Jo Pettitt, Bethany Sutherland, Fiona Themann
Wales head into the qualifier buoyed after an impressive two-nil series victory over Samoa in December’s Wendy White Series in Cardiff, with Head Coach Tracey Wilcox feeling confident about the team’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup:
“These matches are must wins for us with all three countries so evenly matched we are looking forward to three closely contested test matches.”
“It is going to be a thrilling and tense couple of tests. We are confident in our abilities and have had an excellent preparation with the players well prepared to give it their all in the red dress.”
Full squad: Fern Davies, Suzy Drane (C), Bethan Dyke, Clare Jones, Kyra Jones, Nia Jones, Lateisha Kidner, Sarah Llewellyn, Kelly Morgan, Cara Lea Moseley, Eleanor Roberts, Georgia Rowe
How to follow the tournament
Regional Qualifier – Europe
Limited tickets for the Netball World Cup 2019 Regional Qualifier – Europe are still available here.
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