S'pore fightback pleases Aitken but Samoa hang on

Singapore goalkeeper Micky Lin leaping to block Samoa's goal attack Julianna Naoupu, as goal shooter Auteletoa Tanimo readies for the rebound in their game, which the Pacific Islanders won 46-39.
Singapore goalkeeper Micky Lin leaping to block Samoa's goal attack Julianna Naoupu, as goal shooter Auteletoa Tanimo readies for the rebound in their game, which the Pacific Islanders won 46-39.PHOTO: NETBALL WORLD CUP 2015 SYDNEY

Singapore national netball coach Ruth Aitken was left with a bittersweet feeling, after watching her charges fall 39-46 to Samoa at the Netball World Cup in Sydney yesterday.

Ranked 15th in the world - two places behind Samoa - Singapore did well to keep up with their opponents, including a scintillating third quarter which saw them overcome a four-point deficit to level the scores at 33-all.

But a defensive switch from the Pacific Islanders, coupled with poor finishing from the Republic, saw Samoa pull away in the fourth quarter at the Allphones Arena.

Said Aitken: "It was satisfaction and disappointment all wrapped up in one.

"I was pleased that we fought back, even though Samoa were quite ahead, and for us to be this competitive was a great achievement.

"But our expectations and hopes are higher now. We thought that we might be able to take this, and I was disappointed not to finish it off."

Captain Micky Lin added: "The breakdown happened in the fourth quarter where we gave away some cheap interceptions and easy turnovers.

"All these balls are very costly to us and we will need to tidy up at this level. Samoa were a bit more resilient and had more composure than us towards the end of the game, which is the reason why they took the game."

Samoa brought on goalkeeper Jennifer Naoupu in the final quarter, a move which proved decisive.

The 1.85m-tall player, who contributed two interceptions and two rebounds, unnerved Singapore attackers Charmaine Soh and Yu Mei Ling with her aggressive play.

Yu was successful in just two of her five attempts in the fourth quarter, while Soh converted four of her seven shots after missing just once in the third quarter.

Said Aitken: "They brought on a new goalkeeper, who was bigger and more aggressive, and it made life more difficult for us."

Added Soh: "Samoa changed their defenders and we didn't adapt to the change well. We just have to rest well, pick ourselves up and start afresh (today)."

Singapore, who finished 15th at the last World Cup in 2011, play world No. 10 Trinidad and Tobago today in Pool G of the qualification round, before finishing with a game against world No. 16 Zambia on Friday.

A top-two finish in the qualification round means they will vie for ninth to 12th spots. Otherwise, they will play for 13th to 16th placings.

Said Aitken: "Trinidad and Tobago have a really accurate shooter, so we have to cut the supply to her. The work we do outside the goal circle has to be phenomenal.

"We have to get over this, take the good with it, which is the fact that we managed to compete strongly, and keep our concentration going for the full 60 minutes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore fightback pleases Aitken but Samoa hang on'. Print Edition | Subscribe