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Northern Ireland Triumphant in 10th Mission Foods Nations Cup

Northern Irish defeat brave Papua New Guineans 52-41 to win their second Nations Cup 

19 December 2015, Singapore – The 10th Mission Foods Nations Cup came to a close today as a rapturous 1,800 strong crowd at the OCBC Arena were treated to a scintillating display of netball as the three matches (Chinese Taipei vs Singapore Invitational, Singapore vs Botswana, and Northern Ireland vs Papua New Guinea) served up thrills, spills, and nail-biting finishes from all six teams.

In the final match of the day, fans saw the top-two teams of the tournament lock horns in a bid to be crowned the tenth Nations Cup champion. From the beginning, 12th ranked Northern Ireland signaled their intentions as they paired their top scorers for the tournament Jenna and Kyla Bowman up front. This pairing proved effective as they raced to take the first quarter 16-4, as both displayed their attacking prowess in the offensive circle, scoring 70% of their 23 attempts.

The pair worked their magic into the second half as Papua New Guinea piled on the pressure, clawing away at their 12-point lead through GS Tiata Baldwin, who missed her prior two matches due to a knee injury. Despite the lay-off the 6 foot 2 inch goal shooter showed no signs of rust as she paired up with Captain Lua Rikis to tip the second quarter in Papua New Guinea’s favour nicking it 15-14.

The third quarter of the match proved to be more of the same from the Pacific Islanders as they managed a five-goal run midway through the quarter to put the Northern Ireland defence under pressure. Their long and direct style of play gave the Northern Irish defence a tough time as the Papua New Guineans dictated the pace of play and chopped away at the Northern Irish lead. Undeterred, the European powerhouse stuck to their game plan and managed to maintain a 7-point lead at the end of the quarter by scoring nine goals.

In the final quarter, the Northern Irish altered their game plan as they introduced nominee for Northern Irish Sportswoman of the Year, Caroline O’Hanlon as Goal Attack, in an attempt to hold onto the lead and press higher up the court. This proved a wise decision by Head Coach Julie Kimber, as it allowed her team to snuff out a number of Papua New Guinea attacks and stretched their 7-point lead by 4.

Despite the full-court pressure from the Papua New Guineans it was evident later in the closing minutes that the lead managed by the Northern Irish in the first quarter was enough to win them the title as Captain Gemma Gibney led from the back to win the Northern Irish their second Nations Cup in six years. Northern Ireland won the match 52-41.

Commenting on the win, Gemma Gibney said, “It’s been a wonderful tournament for us, we’ve played well throughout, and took every match like a test match. The team’s been great, the players have worked hard, and I think we’ve shown enough strength and skill consistently. Credits to the other teams in the tournament as they’ve put up a good showings all round.”

Singapore takes third place

In the day’s earlier action, hosts Singapore took on Botswana in a battle for bronze in a match that kept spectators on the edge of their seats throughout. The hometown heroines closed a six-point deficit to eventually take the match by a point, as they beat 19th placed Botswana 44-43 to secure a bronze medal.

Umpires recognised as best in Asia

In addition to the on-court action that treated fans throughout the tournament, Singaporean netball was given a boost as two umpires, Joan Yani Abdullah and Yu Bee Ling, were recognised for their contributions to officiating the game as the duo received the International Umpiring Award, the highest award achievable by any netball umpire in the world, making them the firsts in Asia, outside of Australia.

Commenting on the award, Joan Yani Abdullah said, “It is great to be recognised for our contributions to the game, we’re very proud of this achievement, and hope this will be a stepping stone for the others in pursuit of netball in Singapore.”