Hosts South Africa thrilled a capacity crowd at the Cape Town International Convention Centre by claiming their opening win of the Netball World Cup 2023, while Jamaica breached the 100-goal mark and England also got their campaign off to a winning start.
But, it was the Malawi Queens who produced the comeback of the day to get the better of Scotland.
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Here is a short recap:
SOUTH AFRICA 61 - 50 WALES
South Africa cleared the first hurdle in their Netball World Cup 2023 campaign when they beat Wales 61-50 at a packed CTICC in Cape Town.
The Welsh Feathers didn’t only have to contend with the superiority of the Proteas on the court but also the deafening roar of the home crowd in the stands.
There was cheering, dancing and singing throughout the 60-minute encounter that undoubtedly fuelled the home side’s determination to make their country proud.
Player of the tournament at the Netball World Cup 2019 in Liverpool Karla Pretorius made her 99th appearance for the Proteas and was in great form, putting her impressive defensive abilities on full display.
South Africa had the height advantage over their opponents as well as the speed and agility across court.
The Proteas went into the lead 32-24, with Ine-Marie Venter having a stellar performance as goal shooter, finding the net time after time.
While most of the players settled well into their positions, Elmeré van der Berg seemed to struggle to find her feet.
Welsh defenders Ella Powell-Davies and Christina Shaw pounced on Van der Berg’s nervousness, keeping her from making her mark on the big stage.
Her shooting average of 50 per cent was clear evidence of that and she moved to the bench for the final two quarters of the match, being replaced by Nichole Taljaard.
Coach Norma Plummer also brought on Jeanté Strydom (for Shadine van der Merwe) who made her international debut for South Africa.
Wales didn’t make any substitutions until the third quarter with Nansi Kuti replacing Georgia Rowe at goal shooter. It was also Kuti’s debut for Wales.
In the final stretch of the match, South Africa started pulling away, before winning 61 – 50 to the delight of their home crowd.
JAMAICA 105-25 SRI LANKA
Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls got their tournament off to a storming start, notching up a formidable 105-point total in their opening Group C match against Sri Lanka.
That was only the second time the Jamaicans have scored 100 goals on the Netball World Cup stage and the 14th time that the century mark has been surpassed by any team in the tournament’s 60-year history.
The last time the milestone was achieved was in 2015 when Sri Lanka was also on the receiving end of a 101-18 drubbing at the hands of Malawi.
On Friday, the Jamaicans slotted in 11 goals before the Sri Lankans got themselves on the scoreboard.
Goal shooter Romelda Aiken-George notched up a 100 per cent shooting average in the opening quarter, scoring 19 of her side’s 26 goals.
This is the 34-year-old’s fifth Netball World Cup, so equalling the Jamaican record jointly held by her coach, Connie Francis, and Janet Johnson.
Sri Lanka won the Asian qualifying tournament to book their place at the Netball World Cup but found it tough going against the slick Jamaican outfit, reaching halftime facing a 41-goal deficit.
Jhaniele Fowler came on for the first time in the third quarter and notched up a near-perfect 24 out of 25 goals as the Jamaicans continued to dominate.
She added 18 more in the fourth quarter to finish with a 97.7 shooting average – both she and Aiken-George (97.1 per cent) making the most of their significant height advantage in the circle.
It was Rebekah Robinson who slotted in the Jamaicans’ 100th goal of the match in the final quarter as they romped to a 105-25 victory.
ENGLAND 90 - 29 BARBADOS
England also got their bid for a first ever Netball World Cup crown off to a positive start, producing a commanding performance against Barbados in their opening Group B encounter.
The match was unique in that it saw England’s Geva Mentor and Jade Clark as well as Barbados’s Latonia Blackman all stepping out on the Netball World Cup stage for an incredible record-equalling sixth time.
The two sides have met a total of six times in Netball World Cup history, with the island nation never having gotten the better of the Roses.
While the Bajan Gems had a positive start to the match, staying in touch for the first five minutes, seven unanswered goals from England towards the end of the quarter saw them surging further ahead than they already were to reach the first break 20-8 up.
The Roses didn’t look back from there, dominating on all fronts, winning the next quarter by the same 12-goal margin and continuing that ascendency.
Barbados could manage just four goals in the third period and things didn’t go much better in the fourth, the Roses rolling out comfortable 90-29 winners.
MALAWI 55 - 49 SCOTLAND
In a pulsating match at the Netball World Cup 2023, the Malawi Queens secured a 55-49 come-back victory over Scotland.
It was the first time these two sides have met in the history of the sport’s showpiece tournament.
The match started with a bang as Malawi’s shooting duo, Joyce Mvula and Jane Chimaliro, displayed remarkable accuracy, converting all their chances at goal in the first quarter.
But, despite their impeccable shooting, Malawi struggled to retain possession, with only 37 per cent of the ball in their hands. Scotland held a comfortable 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and it looked like an upset was on the cards.
In the second 15 minutes, the African team kicked into a higher gear, proving their mental resilience.
With fresh legs stepping in from the bench, the team started gradually chipping away at the seemingly insurmountable lead Scotland had established earlier on.
Scotland, on the other hand, started the first three quarters with an unchanged lineup, sticking to their initial strategy of staying with the tried and tested.
They introduced replacements in the final 15 minutes in an attempt to salvage the match but it was not to be.
Malawi will undoubtedly want to build on the exceptional performance against Scotland with their eyes set on the playoffs.
For the Scottish Thistles, it is time to regroup and refine their match strategies, hoping to bounce back stronger.