N. Irish tighten screws

Northern Ireland profited from a commanding 16-4 lead in the first quarter to hold off Papua New Guinea for the rest of the final to clinch the Mission Foods Nations Cup.
Northern Ireland profited from a commanding 16-4 lead in the first quarter to hold off Papua New Guinea for the rest of the final to clinch the Mission Foods Nations Cup.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Team learn from earlier match against PNG to correct mistakes to win again, lift Nations Cup

Twice in as many days, Northern Ireland defeated Papua New Guinea (PNG) at the Mission Foods Nations Cup and, in the process, bagged the trophy yesterday.

The European side, ranked No. 12 in the world and the highest-rated in the six-team tournament - reinforced their superiority with a convincing 52-41 win over PNG at the OCBC Arena Hall 1.

This followed Friday's 47-35 victory over the same opponents in their final round-robin match.

Although they had finished the round-robin stage unbeaten, the Irish felt that their game still needed polishing, especially after their earlier match against the Papuans.

Northern Ireland's coach Julie Kimber said: "It was a complete reversal of yesterday's match.

"I'm glad we stuck to our game plan, which was to come out stronger than yesterday.

"But we knew that even if we were 10 goals ahead, we could still lose the game.

"The girls dug deep, we created space, drew the players out, and we showed everyone that this is Northern Ireland and this is what we are capable of."

In the teams' round-robin encounter, Northern Ireland started poorly and fell behind 4-11 in the first quarter.

But in the final, Kimber's side sprinted out of the blocks to build a hefty 16-4 lead in the first quarter.

It gave them a stranglehold, even though the Papuans slowly chipped away their lead, outscoring Northern Ireland in the next two quarters (15-14, 13-9).

Despite being strengthened by the return of their main goal shooter Tiata Baldwin, who played the match with her left knee heavily strapped but shot 22 goals at 88 per cent accuracy, PNG could not engineer a fightback.

PNG also struggled as they were not used to Northern Ireland's defensive style of play.

Team captain Lua Rikis said: "They stuck to us one-to-one like screws and we didn't know how to shake them off."

Meanwhile, Singapore's netballers gave some 1,800 fans something to cheer about as they clinched third spot, coming from behind to edge out Botswana 44-43 in the third/fourth placing match.

Coach Ruth Aitken said: "I think the tournament is a reflection of our character.

"We had a disappointing and rusty start but today was the last chance to redeem ourselves.

"So, hopefully, Singapore will think fondly of us."

Micky Lin, who captained the Republic to SEA Games gold in June, added: "It's a nice ending and closure to the year."


Correction note: An earlier version of this article said that there were 200 fans watching Singapore's netballers play against Botswana, when the actual figure was 1,800. We are sorry for the error. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'N. Irish tighten screws'. Print Edition | Subscribe