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NZ Netball team tested by gallant Malawi in Games opener

NZ Netball team tested by gallant Malawi in Games opener

Media Advisory
25 July 2014

The NZ Netball team were pushed all the way before edging to a 50-47 win over Malawi in their opening match of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Friday.

The unorthodox but highly-effective Malawi provided a challenging contest for the Kiwis who took the greater part of the match to finally subdue their plucky opponents.

Building slender buffers on several occasions, the New Zealanders were unable to stamp any real authority, an improved defensive effort and more impetus on attack finally seeing them over the line.

For much of the game, the well-performed Malawi threatened to produce one of the biggest upsets in world netball as they crafted probably their best performance ever, in the process leaving the New Zealanders with plenty to ponder ahead of the rest of their Games campaign.

The NZ netballers showed plenty of respect for the world’s fifth-ranked Malawi when presenting with a near full-strength line-up, the notable exception being captain Casey Kopua. Her usual place of goal defence was filled by Katrina Grant playing her 50th test while Leana de Bruin slotted in at goalkeeper and vice-captain Laura Langman lined up for her 101st consecutive test.

The recent retirement of Irene van Dyk cast Cathrine Latu into the spotlight, the New Zealand circle without their peerless shooter for the first time in 15 years.

After scoring the first three goals, the New Zealanders knew they had a game on their hands as the Malawi Queens refused to take a backward step against the defending Commonwealth Games champions.

Showing precise and patient transition through court, Malawi tracked the New Zealanders through a tight first half. On the back of a stellar debut ANZ Championship season, goal shoot Mwai Kumwenda produced a dominant performance with her athleticism and aerial skills in tandem with a strong effort from her attack line.

A mid-quarter run propelled the New Zealand team to a four-goal lead but it was short-lived as Malawi benefited from a series of offensive penalties from their opponents, the New Zealanders taking a slender 14-13 lead into the first break.

A strong start on the resumption again pushed the Kiwis out to a four-goal advantage but they struggled to shake the well-drilled and purposeful Malawians who continued to retain a strong presence in the contest.

Latu and Maria Tutaia were well contained by an effective Malawi defensive unit, a flat-looking NZ side finding it hard to generate any momentum. There were no such problems for the classy Kumwenda, easily the highest scorer on court as she stole the show.

Making few mistakes and with their ability to retain possession, the increasingly well-performed Malawi ensured there was no easy road for the world’s second ranked team as the they went to the main break locked up at 25-all.

Looking to up the ante, the New Zealanders rolled out the changes for the second half with Kopua assuming the goalkeeper’s role, Jodi Brown replacing Tutaia, Anna Harrison in at wing defence for Joline Henry and Shannon Francois taking over at wing attack from Liana Leota.

Again the New Zealanders got off to a strong start, better defensive pressure gaining turnover ball while Latu and Brown combined effectively under the hoop.

But largely untroubled in getting the ball through court, Malawi were far from done as they pushed into the lead with their never-say-die attitude. It took a final surge from New Zealand to reclaim the lead in a game they made hard work of before hitting the last break with a tenuous 37-35 lead.

Please click here for the 2014 Media Guide for the New Zealand Netball Team at the Commonwealth Games.

-Ends-

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