Netball: Hosts Singapore begin Nations Cup mission with wire-to-wire victory over Ireland

Singapore goal shooter Charmaine Soh (far left, in red) attempting to catch a ball passed by attacker Zhang Ailin. Soh scored 43 goals while debutante Zhang displayed a 100 per cent shot accuracy at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
Singapore goal shooter Charmaine Soh (left, in red) attempting to catch a ball passed by attacker Zhang Ailin. Soh scored 43 goals while debutante Zhang displayed a 100 per cent shot accuracy at the OCBC Arena yesterday. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Irish eyes were not smiling at the OCBC Arena yesterday as Singapore's netballers opened their Mission Foods Nations Cup campaign with a 52-37 victory.

Backed by a boisterous home crowd of over 1,900, who roared in excitement each time their team gained possession, the Singapore side penetrated Ireland's strong defence to prevail at the OCBC Arena.

The hosts led from start to finish, ending the first three quarters 14-10, 23-20, 35-30 respectively - before wrapping up the win.

Despite Ireland's strong display in the first half, Singapore's short, quick passes and nimble movement won them the match.

Singapore coach Ruth Aitken was glad her side - ranked 17th in the world - found a way to counter the "long arms of the Ireland defence".

"Ireland played particularly well and got a lot of (possession) off our passes, so we had to change the angles of our attack," she said.

"We had to keep things moving, because they preferred it when we were a bit more static. So I thought we got some good speed, which was important in the last quarter and that really made a difference."

Singapore shooter Charmaine Soh scored 43 goals (81 per cent accuracy) yesterday, and Aitken praised the 26-year-old's performance as an "outstanding" one.

The 60-year-old also gave credit to Nations Cup debutante Zhang Ailin, who featured in the second half.

Zhang scored five goals in as many attempts against a side ranked 25th in the world.

Aitken said: "Bringing Ailin in as goal attack was great. It gave her an opportunity to have her first Test match at home, and I thought she opened up space really well.

"Her movement was good too, and in the last quarter, she got confident on her shot which was really great."

Zhang, 28, said the home crowd support was the key reason she forgot her nerves.

"There were a bit of butterflies before the match, but I think they flew away," she said. "The crowd was awesome, and realising that I needed to play my best for the team helped me step up and forget that it was my first game."

Ireland head coach Joan Young was upbeat despite her side's loss.

Four of Ireland's 12 players had no international experience before yesterday's match.

Young said: "They are a new squad who are not very familiar with one another, so they were not always aware of where their team-mates were.

"So their vision was limited at times, but that's part and parcel of getting to know your new team-mates so I expected that to a certain extent."

The other two matches saw Zambia pip Botswana 46-43, while Papua New Guinea beat Canada 73-30. Singapore can expect a tougher test when they face Botswana, ranked 19th in the world, at the OCBC Arena tonight.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Hosts S'pore begin Nations Cup mission with wire-to-wire victory over Ireland'. Print Edition | Subscribe