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Botswana take third place and PNG overcome the Irish for fifth
The final day of action at the Nations Cup 2014 was full of excitement from start to finish. Samoa lifted the trophy on their debut at the competition, but hosts Singapore can be proud of their second placing after defeating two higher ranked teams in the process.
The ninth edition of the competition has been the most competitive yet and all the teams will take valuable learning’s back to their respective continents and look to build on their results for a successful 2015.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA VS IRELAND
Papua New Guinea wanted to end the competition with their second win of the week, and their second win over Ireland who lost 56-25 to their opponents in the group stages.
In the end it was a convincing win and fifth place finish for the Pepes (58-33) and the wooden spoon goes to Ireland who have fought hard all week against some tough opposition.
PNG had struggled earlier in the week with their consistency, unable to sustain controlled passages of play beyond one or two quarters. Today they looked more like the side that took third place in the competition last year but didn’t get it right in their earlier matches this week.
Vice Captain Kilala Owen had a strong game at Goal Keeper, cutting out many of the Irish scoring chances and driving the attack from the back. Irish GS, Jan Hynes, who has been one of their strongest players all week had to come off after the first quarter due to an injury so it was left to Emma Wakefield and Amber Piercy to do what they could to keep the scoreboard ticking over when the chances came their way.
Wendy Howell had a stand out game for Ireland in their defensive circle, paired with Kirsty Owens. The PNG Shooters were on form but Howell broke their flow several times and gave her team a much-needed lift.
By half time, PNG were 35-14 ahead and their drive and focus didn’t fade in the second half. Both sides made several changes on court: PNG giving all their team a run on the last day; Ireland trying to find a combination that could claw back the margin despite the number of injured players they had on their bench.
Ireland had two close opening matches, but their lack of experience at top-level, intense competitions like this began to show and they could not build on these performances. Although they failed to get any points on the table this week, they way they have played – against the toughest line up in the Nations Cup so far – will give them confidence moving forward.
Kilala Owens (Vice Captain): “We played to our game plan today and did what we wanted to improve on. We got the consistency right today – from the start to the finish. Very happy that we are ending on a high note this week after a tough start.”
Wendy Howell (GD): “We have improved massively since our first visit to Singapore. That was a big shock to us in 2012 – the first major international competition we had played in and the first time we’d flown overseas as a team as well. We are better prepared this year, unlucky with injuries but we have put in some strong performances. Despite the results, it is great to be here and play against teams we wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to come up against back home.”
BOTSWANA VS MALAYSIA
It was a case of deja-vu in the first half of the third placing match between Botswana and Malaysia as the half time of 25-21 was exactly the same as their mid week meeting in the group stages.
Botswana went on to win the previous clash 51-36 but it was a much closer battle today. Malaysia have got stronger as the week has gone on and pushed Singapore all the way last night, just missing out on a place in the grand final and they said with conviction after that match that they knew they could beat Botswana this time around.
It was one of the most physical matches of the week with plenty knocks and scuffles across the court. The Africans stayed strong but did let Malaysia come back into the game in the final quarter (10-14) but time was on their side and they’d done enough to take the win when the final whistle blew 44-41.
T.Bagidi (Vice Capt): “That is a big relief. We are very happy and very proud of ourselves today. I am glad that we get to go home with something [third place]. We made sure that we used each other well today and connected our passes.”
Suo Kuen (Capt): “Our fitness maybe let us down today. Botswana had a very strong defence and there was a lot of contact, which was tiring for us. We switched out GA and GS in the last quarter and that helped us a bit but the match had gone from us already.”
SAMOA VS SINGAPORE
A full house at the OCBC Arena turned up the volume and gave Singapore the most tremendous support in their fight against Samoa for the Nations Cup title in the 2014 grand final. Samoa had defeated Singapore 53-47 in the group stages and didn’t want to end their weak with a loss to tarnish their performance.
The match started at a frenetic pace which Singapore settled into well and it was neck and neck in the first quarter, Charmaine Soh slotting the final goal of the period to give the hosts a one point lead (10-11).
Chen Li Li and Lin Qingyi started the match as the defensive pairing in an attempt to combat the 192cm Samoan shooter Monica Fuimaono who’s been a danger all week. Premila Hirubalan moved into the midcourt and this combination proved strong, dynamic and a challenge to the top seeds.
Samoa tried to play a straight line of attack through the centre of the court and were quick to shut down any attacks from their opposition, but Singapore were able to break through by taking advantage of forced passes and using space out wide.
As they have done all week, Charmaine Soh and Chen Huifen partnered well in the attacking circle and both kept a cool head while facing some tall and tough defence, namely Sanonu Robertson and Natalie Jones. They took all their chances and went into the half time break with a six-point lead (20-26).
The Pacific Islanders were going to sit back and stop fighting so they stepped it up another gear in the third quarter taking it (17-6) to overtake Singapore for a 37-32 advantage with the final 15 to play.
Ang Shi Qi came on in the centre for Singapore to add some fresh legs and had another strong performance but the fatigue was setting in, feeds into the shooters were going amiss and vital chances were lost as Samoa kept slotting them in.
Singapore didn’t stop battling and lost the last quarter by only four (13-9) for a final score of 50-41 and a final that will go down as one of the best. Samoa take the crown back to the Pacific Islands – it was last won by a team from Oceania in 2008 (PNG) and Singapore settle for an impressive second place for the second year running.
Sanita To’o (Capt): “This has been amazing. To go through unbeaten this week and come back after Singapore were leading in the first half. I am so proud of the girls. We just needed to get rid of our nerves and once we let go of that we got some confidence and were able to get our connections going. We didn’t want them to get such a good start but they did and we had to fight back and we finished off well.”
Premila Hirubalan (WD, Most Valuable Player for Singapore): “I wasn’t expecting that award at all. It really goes to the entire team. It was a disappointing result, we have lots to work on but we now know we can compete with world class teams and that is great preparation for the World Cup next year. They out ran us in the second half and figured out our game plan faster than we worked out theirs. We need to work on our mental and physical game but it’s really been a fantastic week overall.”
Ruth Aitken (Coach): “We lost a bit of confidence with our connections and their style of play is not something we come across often but we beat one pacific team this week and competed well with another. There are lots of positives to take from the week. The crowds have been fantastic and we will now get back on the horse, work a bit harder, work a bit smarter and prepare for a big year of netball next year.”
5th: Papua New Guinea
6th: Republic of Ireland
Most Valuable Player Awards:
Botswana: Gosego Tsele
Malaysia: Yap Suo Kuen
Papua New Guinea: Lua Rikis
Republic of Ireland: Niamh Murphy
Samoa: Opheria Harder-Karatau
Singapore: Premila Hirubalan
RESULTS FOR DAY 6:
Papua New Guinea 58-33 Ireland (HT 35-14)
Botswana 44-41 Malaysia (HT 25-21)
Samoa 50-41 Singapore (HT 20-26)
SINGAPORE SHOOTING STATISTICS: