S'pore quell early jitters

Singapore, with Nurul Baizura in action, took time to settle down against Sri Lanka but Asia's top-ranked team eventually found their rhythm to post a win.
Singapore, with Nurul Baizura in action, took time to settle down against Sri Lanka but Asia's top-ranked team eventually found their rhythm to post a win.PHOTO: NARELLE SPANGHER (NWC2015 MEDIA)

Netballers start World Cup campaign with a win over Sri Lanka, aided by superb defence

It was their first competitive outing since a gold-medal winning run at June's SEA Games.

And while the Singapore national netball team took some time to get going, they eventually posted a comfortable win at the Netball World Cup .

Yesterday's 56-43 victory over Asian rivals Sri Lanka at Sydney's Allphones Arena was earned through stellar defensive work rather than sterling offence.

The Sri Lankans had the better overall shooting percentage, netting 86 per cent of their attempts to Singapore's 70 per cent.

Yet, Singapore had the decisive edge in interceptions - a whopping 18 compared to the Sri Lankans' four.

No wonder goal shooter Charmaine Soh singled out her veteran team-mates - captain and goalkeeper Micky Lin and goal defender Premila Hirubalan - as keys to the victory.

The duo posted seven interceptions and 17 deflections to fend off the Sri Lankan offence.

Soh said: "Both of them were simply amazing for us and their contributions in defence gave me extra motivation to net my shots."

Soh led the scoring with 39 points, converting 71 per cent of her 55 attempts.

Goal attack Chen Huifen added 17 points against a new-look Sri Lankan team who were without Tharjini Sivalingam, their lethal 2.06m-tall goal shooter, for the World Cup.

However, they raced into a 4-0 lead early on, forcing Singapore head coach Ruth Aitken to call for a time-out.

Things went better after that for Singapore's netballers, who won Team of the Year in Wednesday's Singapore Sports Awards.

They finished the first quarter tied at 12-all, before pulling ahead in the second for a 30-23 lead.

Although Sri Lanka closed the gap to 39-34 in the third quarter, Soh and Chen buried their rivals with clinical shooting in the final quarter for the vital Pool C win.

"We fumbled at the start because it is our first game here and we were getting used to the conditions," said Soh, who earned her 45th cap.

"We adjusted well after a while and, once we got going, I thought the team did really well."

Singapore, ranked 15th in the world, will prepare for a tough test today in the form of fifth-ranked South Africa.

The latter were stunned 51-58 by world No. 6 Malawi in the other Pool C game yesterday.

Said coach Aitken: "I am very pleased to start off with a win and the intensity which the team showed today was brilliant.

"We look ahead to South Africa and we are going to prepare ourselves to ensure we compete strongly. In sports, on any given day, anything can happen so we are going to do our best and have a good crack at South Africa."

Host Australia began their title defence yesterday by beating Trinidad and Tobago 73-32.

New Zealand, who were runners-up in the 2011 edition of the World Cup, ran out 73-28 winners against Barbados.

England thumped Scotland 60-19, while Jamaica overcame Samoa 90-44.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline 'S'PORE QUELL EARLY JITTERS'. Print Edition | Subscribe