Singapore clinches first win in their Netball World Cup campaign
Singapore began their Netball World Cup (NWC) campaign in winning style, beating long-time Asian rivals, Sri Lanka, 56-43 in an exciting encounter at the Netball Central in the Sydney Olympic Park, Australia.
It was a rematch of the finals of the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships 2014 in which Singapore won 59-41. Back in the World Netball Championships (WNC) 2011, the Sri Lankans beat Singapore 62-51.
Singapore fielded a relatively familiar side with 5 of the players from the 2011 WNC side, Chen Huifen and Charmaine Soh leading the attack, Nurul Baizura and NWC debut Kimberly Lim in midcourt and Premila Hirubalan, Captain Micky Lin and NWC debut Chen Li Li holding the fort in defence.
It was Sri Lanka who started the match better, putting in 4 shots before Singapore responded with a goal by centurion, Chen Huifen. Nerves, poor shooting and stray passes gave Singapore a shaky start. It was 2–8 to Sri Lanka after 7 minutes before Singapore settled into the game and had a good run of 6 goals, putting the score at 8-8 at 10 minutes. Since then, it was goal for goal, and the quarter ended 12-12, with Sri Lanka’s 193cm Goal Shooter, Thishala Algama netting the shot in the last second.
Singapore started strongly in the 2nd quarter, with all players fighting and defending hard, and led 23-14 after 8 minutes. However, the 9 goal lead was quickly reduced by the Sri Lankans who played a quick, fast game, with 2.06m tall Tharjini Sivalingam not in the team. Charmaine Soh, who shot a 94% shooting accuracy (15/16 shots) in the 2nd quarter, netted the last goal of the 2nd quarter, putting the score at 30-23.
The second half saw the Sri Lankans closing up the gap and the goal difference was reduced to just 3 goals 8 minutes into the game. Singapore’s Ang Shiqi came in to replace Chen Li Li in defence and the move saw veteran Premila Hirubalan moving in partner Micky Lin in circle defence. With 3 minutes of the 3rd quarter left, Sri Lanka drew the match at 34-34 before Singapore picked up their game to end the quarter 39-34.
The last quarter was a repeat of the 2nd quarter as Singapore stomped to exert their superiority over their opponents, taking the quarter by 17-9. The final result was 56-43.
On the strategy employed against Sri Lanka, Head Coach, Ruth Aitken said, “The Sri Lankans are bigger than our girls, so when we play too close together, we allow the Sri Lankan defence to work together. Thus, we had to run their legs off them, open things up, get the ball moving fast and once we remember to play the game properly, we are fine.”
On the team’s performance, “I thought the team played well defensively, particularly Premila, who is pretty explosive out there and when she gets on her role, then the rest of the team really lift. The fighting spirit was fantastic and our attackers created turnover balls and that was really good. Everybody contributed to the game,”
“I thought it was a great game. Sri Lanka never gave up, we never gave up, which was fantastic. It was an excellent representation of Asian netball,“ added Aitken.
Sri Lanks’s Head Coach, Deepthi Alwis, was disappointed with her team’s loss, “We started with our normal game, however, our defence line did not follow the strategy. We got blocked in the centre court and couldn’t open up the game in the 3rd quarter even after we drew 34-34. With the way we played in the 1st quarter, we could have won with a few goals or lost with a lesser margin if the players followed the strategy.”
Singapore will play their next game against Norma Plummer’s South Africa, ranked 6th in the world at 5.20pm (3.20pm Singapore time) at the Netball Central while Sri Lanka will face Malawi. Malawi beat South Africa 58-51 in the other Pool C result.
When asked about meeting Plummer again, Aitken replied, smilingly, “We will meet each other with a smile before the game. After that, it’s all about the teams.”
CHEN LI LI
Quarter Results (Singapore v Sri Lanka)
1st Quarter 12-12
2nd Quarter 30-23 (18-11)
3rd Quarter 39-34 (9-11)
4th Quarter 56-43 (17-9)
Charmaine Soh 39/55 (71%)
Chen Huifen 17/25 (68%)
Thishala Algama 34/39 (87%)
Semini Alwis 9/11 (82%)