The She Cranes started their pursuit of a semi-final place at the Netball World Cup 2015 with a 59-53 defeat against Malawi on Tuesday.
By Joseph Kizza
The She Cranes started their pursuit of a semi-final place at the Netball World Cup 2015 with a 59-53 defeat against Malawi on Tuesday – a second loss in two days.
Tuesday marked the start of a four-day qualification round (second phase), which will determine the teams that make it to the semi-finals.
Following the first round (preliminary stage), Uganda was placed in Pool E alongside Malawi, four-time world champions New Zealand and Jamaica, who are ranked fourth in the world.
In the first Pool E game, Malawi, unbeaten so far in this competition, and eight places above Uganda in the world rankings, proved too strong for the Ugandans at the Netball Central in Sydney. An impressive She Cranes comeback attempt in the final quarter came only short as The Malawi Queens wore out.
Captain Peace Proscovia was the more (and generally most) accurate goal shooter of the day, scoring 38 from 39 attempts. Her opposite Mwayi Kumwenda dipped 48 of her 53 tries. She Cranes' goal attack Racheal Nanyonga, who has equally impressed throughout the tournament, scored 15 out of 18 attempts. Her Zambian counterpart Sindi Simtowe managed 11 from 13 attempts.
The Silver Ferns went on to beat the Jamaicans 55-48 in the other Pool E fixture at the Allphones Arena.
The top two teams in this pool will move on to the semi-finals. To determine who will progress, all the four teams will play a round robin format – meaning, each side will play all the other three opponents. (Uganda will have to play against Jamaica and New Zealand in this second phase).
The other best two teams to qualify for the semis will be drawn from Pool F (Australia, England, South Africa and Wales).
Earlier on Tuesday, South Africa made easy work of Wales with a 68-40 victory on day five in Pool F. Wales snuffed out Uganda’s unbeaten run in the preliminary round, and they saw their own clean streak broken by a dominant South African side at the Allphones Arena.
In the second Pool F game, holders Australia overpowered England 51-41 inside a full packed Allphones Arena.
South Africa next meet defending champions Australia on day six while Wales meet England. England will play Wales.
In Pool G, it was the same script for Zambia who are yet to register any win in this tournament. They were easily brushed aside by Trinidad & Tobago 66-39 at the Netball Central.
Trinidad & Tobago face Singapore on Wednesday while a lackluster Zambia will seek a first victory against Samoa (who got their first win earlier against Singapore).
The She Cranes, who have played two games in two days, will rest on Wednesday, before taking on Jamaica early on Thursday (day seven). Prior, fellow Pool E teams Malawi and New Zealand will face off on Wednesday.
Uganda’s last encounter will be against New Zealand while Malawi face Jamaica on Friday to determine who progresses to the semi-finals.
On Tuesday, the gulf in ranking between Uganda and Malawi quickly showed on the court as The Malawi Queens swiftly took the lead, with goal shooter Mwayi Kumwenda being constantly fed by her teammates to bury 15 of her 18 attempts. By the end of the opening quarter, the She Cranes were trailing by a good nine goals (19-10).
The Ugandans played catch-up in the second 15 minutes, with lanky goal shooter and skipper Peace Proscovia maintaining her accuracy in front of the basket: by half time, she had failed to bury only one of her 17 attempts. Her opposite, Kumwenda, had dipped 27 from 31 attempts. The two sides went into the break with Malawi still in complete control, leading 35-22.
Uganda came from the break a much improved side, keeping their fellow African opponents within arm's distance. Unlike the case in the first half-hour, game flow in the third quarter was two-way. Proscovia's teammates looked more galvanized in defence and in attack, with the captain still maintaing her 100% shooting accuracy since the second quarter.
The solidity, strength and resilience of the Malawians, however, proved the difference. At no point did they allow their opponents to go past, finishing the third quarter still leading 50-36.
In the last quarter, the She Cranes built onto their previous determination, taking the lead for the first time in the game as the Malawians wore out. It was still a huge amount of ground to make up, with just under 10 minutes left to the final whistle. But the She Cranes capitalized on their opponent's exhaustion to bridge farther the gap... only time was their foe.
All is not lost yet, but defeat to Malawi offered the She Cranes a quick snapshot of the kind of competition they should expect in their upcoming fixtures in this tight qualification round.
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