N. Ireland draw first blood

They gain a morale boost over the Papuans ahead of Nations Cup final with 47-35 win

Northern Ireland drew first blood by beating Papua New Guinea (PNG) just one day before they meet in the final of the Mission Foods Nations Cup this evening.

In a battle of the only undefeated sides in the six-team, round-robin stage of the netball competition, Northern Ireland recorded a convincing 47-35 victory over the Papuans yesterday.

This, despite Northern Ireland's shooters struggling to find the hoop, managing just 62 per cent.

Their head coach Julie Kimber knows that her shooters need to brush up for the final at 4pm at the OCBC Arena Hall 1 today.

She said: "We didn't shoot well at all today. There were a lot of opportunities but we just could not get it in. We definitely need to be better than how we did today.

HUGE CONFIDENCE BOOST

We wanted to have a psychological advantage going into the final tomorrow. When we know that we have beaten them, it gives us a lot of confidence.

JULIE KIMBER, Northern Ireland coach

"But we wanted to have a psychological advantage going into the final tomorrow. When we know that we have beaten them, it gives us a lot of confidence"

Her charges, the highest-ranked team in the competition at 12th, were given a scare in the first quarter, as their opponents, ranked 16th, looked sharp in their passes and sprinted to an 11-4 lead.

But the Papuans could not keep up their level of play and allowed the Northern Irish to storm back.

Kimber said: "We started off slowly in the first quarter and it was disappointing. And they had to pull it out (a win) in the end."

PNG rested their main goal shooter Tiata Baldwin, who took a knock to her left knee in their opening match against Botswana on Sunday. Their young replacement Herronie Daera, 21, finished with 23 goals on 96 per cent shooting but her effort was not enough to sustain their charge.


Northern Ireland's Jenna Bowman (left) squaring off with Papua New Guinea's Kilala Owen in their final round-robin match at the Mission Foods Nations Cup yesterday. Northern Ireland beat Papua New Guinea 47-35. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Their captain Lua Rikis said: "It worked that we had some quick passes at the start and we got the momentum going. But we have to be more consistent."

Despite the loss, PNG's head coach Unaisi Soroinikula drew some positives from the good play shown by her team at the start of the match.

She said: "We started really well, but in the second quarter onwards, they went to sleep. We have to maintain possession and we cannot throw away the balls easily.

"If we can play like how we did for the first quarter, I'm sure we can turn the tables on them during the final. We're not going to let Northern Ireland run away with it."

Both Northern Ireland and PNG will be hoping to lift their second trophy here. They last triumphed in 2009 and 2008 respectively.

Singapore will face Botswana in the play-off for third place at 2pm today. The hosts defeated the Singapore Invitational side 44-32 while Botswana trounced Chinese Taipei 72-25.

The Singapore Invitational side and the Taiwanese clash at noon to determine who will finish fifth.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'N. Ireland draw first blood'. Print Edition | Subscribe