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Northern Ireland tipped off their Mission Foods Nations Cup 2015 campaign in confident fashion as they beat tough opposition Botswana 41-37 in what was a tightly contested affair.
Botswana got off to a strong start as they shot the first goal to take the lead, but the lead lasted only a few goals as Northern Ireland stormed back to tie the game at 10-10. Northern Ireland then picked up their game to eventually edge the first quarter (12-10).
The second quarter began very much like the first, with both teams putting on impressive offensive displays as they scored 9 goals each in the second half. The game was certainly one for the neutrals as both captains shot impressive goals to keep spectators on the edge of their seats. With a draw to conclude the second half, Northern Ireland remains in the lead with 2 points.
In the third quarter, Botswana aimed to build on their lead through star performer Portia Rasekhumba but couldn’t find the same rhythm, as Fionnuala Toner and Gemma Gibney put on an organized and inspired defensive display to limit the Botswana’s goal scoring opportunities. Despite both defences playing at the top of their game, Northern Ireland found the momentum and continued to lead with a score of 30 to 29.
Both teams seemed motivated as they came out for the final quarter, with Botswana in relentless pursuit of each ball, trying to close the gap. Northern Ireland Head Coach Julie Kimber then called for a substitution bringing on attacking player, Michelle Drayne, whose solid attack broke down Botswana’s defence, giving the Northern Ireland their first win of the competition at 41-37.
Northern Ireland vs Botswana
Q2: 21-19 (9-9)
Q3: 30-29 (9-10)
Quote from Head Coaches
Neo Kebuang, Botswana Head Coach
We’ve played Northern Ireland before, so we started the game with man-to-man defence. It was a very fast and defensive game.
For the next game, we look to play the game with shorter passes and tighten our defence.
Julie Kimber, Northern Ireland Head Coach
It was a very close and physical match. The Northern Ireland girls made a few mistakes but they worked very hard to win the match. Some of them are very tired; two just stepped off the plane. We’ve made some changes just to give the newer players exposure to the game.
Now the Northern Ireland girls will know what to expect for the next match. We have to make some changes accordingly and not take risks.
Quote from Team Captain
Tumisang Bagidi, Botswana Captain
I felt that the game was highly competitive. There were hiccups at some points in the game, but overall, our team played really well considering that Northern Ireland is ranked higher than us.
We had a problem adapting to the umpiring, which cost us many balls today. That’s one thing we will need to work on in future matches.
Gemma Gibney, Northern Ireland Captain
Botswana played great and very fast. On our end, we played our own game consistently, and the game went very smoothly.
We watched the match against Singapore earlier. They have a lot of excellent players and a variety as well. We will come together later tonight to strategize for our match against them tomorrow.