The FAST5 Netball World Series 2023 was left wide open after four teams closed out a frenetic, action-packed, vibrant and colourful opening day in Christchurch on Saturday on equal points.
No team remained unbeaten as Australia, England, Jamaica and New Zealand all posted two wins and a loss after their three matches on day one.
South Africa secured one win while Malawi ended up winless, leaving plenty on the line for all teams as they head into day two with two more round robin matches apiece ahead of the play-offs.
New Zealand lead the standings on goal differential followed by Australia, England and Jamaica.
New Zealand had the opportunity to remain the only unbeaten team when taking on Australia in the final match of the day. But stung by their opening round loss, Australia were at their imperious best against their trans-Tasman rivals.
Clinical and more accurate, the defending champions produced a storming defensive effort where Ashleigh Ervin and Tegan O’Shannassy never gave an inch while shooters Tippah Dwan and Lucy Austin were instrumental in producing more productive power plays, where shots are worth double points in the last 90 seconds of each quarter.
Making gains in the second quarter through big points shots from Tiana Metuarau and Amorangi Malesala, New Zealand could not maintain the impetus during an intense second half.
England returned to winning ways in their final match of the day to overpower Malawi 41-30. Spearheaded by an impressive shooting return from an on-song Paige Reed, well supported by Emma Thacker, England stifled Malawi’s attacking momentum with a strong defensive presence.
This was preceded by an opening 37-26 win over South Africa and a 32-21 loss to New Zealand.
A plucky South Africa burst Jamaica’s bubble when securing a 33-17 win over the previously unbeaten Sunshine Girls to throw the draw wide open.
Jamaica could not repeat the heroics of their two earlier wins, their shooting returns running cold while South Africa built on their best start of the day to clinically build a winning formula.
Steady and effective on attack, Zandre Smit and Sian Moore added the polish with their shooting efforts while centre Shannen Bartlett was an influential presence in a Proteas team full of energy and spark.
Earlier in the day, hot shot Jamaican clutch shooter Gezelle Allison quickly became the talk of the tournament after sealing two wins on the trot for the Sunshine Girls, both in a similar fashion.
Injected onto the court with her team down by two, Allison had just five seconds to pot a goal of any denomination, one, two or three to keep Jamaica alive and did so in style with minimal fuss. Nailing a six-pointer, she added the icing for the Sunshine Girls to sneak past Malawi 41-37 in their second match just as she had done in their opener against Australia.
After dropping their opening matches, Australia ensured South Africa remained winless after two outings when bouncing back to inflict a 38-32 win over the Proteas.
The FAST5 Ferns clinched their second straight win when eclipsing England 32-21 to halt the Roses winning momentum from the first round.
As is the nature of FAST5, the opening round got the tournament off to a bang when both last year’s finalists were beaten in their first-up matches.
Defending champions Australia were pipped 38-36 by Jamaica while last year’s runners-up South Africa were undone 37-26 by a well-drilled England.
Allison had the honour of scoring the first three-pointer of the tournament as well as the first six-pointer to get Jamaica back in contention. With four seconds left on the clock, Allison nailed the winner in an outstanding individual effort, edging her team to a defining outcome and a personal haul of 29 points.
In the other first-round match, the FAST5 Ferns, with towering shooter Grace Nweke making her debut at this level, were untroubled in clinching a 42-13 win over Malawi.
International fans can watch all of the action on NetballPass, here.
To view all results and tomorrow’s schedule, click here.