Netball: Zambia victorious in first Nations Cup

The triumphant Zambia team strutting their stuff on court after capturing the Nations Cup. They beat Papua New Guinea 65-49.
The triumphant Zambia team strutting their stuff on court after capturing the Nations Cup. They beat Papua New Guinea 65-49.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Newcomers Zambia ended their Mission Foods Nations Cup debut on the best possible note by beating last year's runners-up Papua New Guinea 65-49 in the final at the OCBC Arena yesterday.

Zambia, ranked 16th in the world, were undefeated in five matches at the six-nation tournament going into the final.

Leading 15th-ranked Papua New Guinea at the end of every quarter, Zambia did not let their lack of height - their average of 1.65m is the shortest in the tournament - stop them from putting up a strong aerial display yesterday.

They leapt in the air to receive passes from their team-mates and intercepted their opponents' own.

Zambia's goal shooter Hellen Banda and goal attacker Lucy Jere made the most of their side's possession, notching shooting accuracies of 93 and 95 per cent, respectively.

For Zambia coach Charles Zulu, his side's successful run at the Nations Cup is a welcome morale booster for the upcoming Diamond Challenge, a four-team tournament involving south African nations.

The tournament will be held in October, and Zulu said: "We've participated in the Diamond Challenge about three times, and we've never won any game. So now that we have won in Singapore, I want to win at least two or three games there.

"We've been losing all the time, so now we're going there with a positive mind."

Hosts Singapore finished fourth after losing 41-47 to Botswana in the third place play-off.

Despite the loss, Singapore coach Ruth Aitken was happy with her charges' overall performance at the tournament.

Admitting the team still has areas for improvement, she added: "On attack we still need to play with more confidence and let that ball go. There were a little bit of nerves, but the intensity of the game is there so it is still about having confidence.

"Next year we'll be looking at training early on in the year and building up to the SEA Games."

In the play-off for fifth place, world No. 25 Ireland beat 18th-ranked Canada 47-18.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'Zambia victorious in first Nations Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe