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Vitality Netball Superleague stars kick start their World Cup campaigns

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 12/07/2019 - Netball - Vitality Netball World Cup - South Africa v Trinidad & Tobago - M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, England.

The Vitality Netball World Cup got underway on Friday 12 July in front of a sell-out Liverpool crowd. With sixteen of the world’s top teams taking to the court, the Vitality Netball Superleauge followed the results closely, with 32 of its athletes featuring in the line-ups. Here’s how the day panned out;

Session 1:

Group A: Australia 88 – 24 Northern Ireland

Coming up against fierce competition in their opening round, Northern Ireland faced world number one Australia, who got off to a sensational start, with their captain and goal shooter Caitlin Basset converting every single goal in the first fifteen minutes. Vitality Netball Superleague stars Caroline O’Hanlan (Manchester Thunder), Fionnuala Toner (London Pulse) and Michelle Drayne (Saracens Mavericks) gave their all on court but the visitors from down under continued to increase the gap, ending the game with an enormous 64-goal victory.

Fionnuala Toner commented: “It was tough, it’s always going to be tough against the number one team in the world. They’re full time netball athletes, we’re amateurs, we still hold down full-time jobs so it’s always going to be difficult but I think we can learn an awful lot from a game like that.”

Group A: Zimbabwe 79 – 39 Sri Lanka

With remarkable shooting statistics from both sides, the match was a compellingly competitive affair. With their raucous support creating an almost unparalleled atmosphere, the Zim Gems made a huge impression with their first ever World Cup victory, beating Sri Lanka by a whopping 30 goals.

Group B: New Zealand 64 – 45 Malawi

New Zealand claimed the first victory of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup with a resounding victory over Malawi in the opening match of the tournament. Featuring VNSL players Joyce Mvula of Manchester Thunder and London Pulse’s Loreen Ngwira, Malawi got off to a flying start, keeping the score line close for much of the opening quarter with Mvula recording a strong 80% shot rate. The second half however saw New Zealand’s formidable attack find their flow and push on to create a wide lead, finishing the game with a comfortable 19-goal lead.

Manchester Thunder’s Joyce Mvula returned to court for the first time today, after suffering an injury during the VNSL Grand Final. She said: “Of course, I’ll try and bring my Thunder form [into this tournament]. I’m coming back from injury so of course it is hard, that’s why I was coming in and out of the game.”

Group B: Barbados 69 – 34 Singapore

The Gems extending their four-game winning streak over Singapore to five as their flowing game prevailed throughout each quarter, with strong shooting statistics being supported by turnover ball. Whilst Singapore showed promise in the third quarter, they were ultimately unable to contend with the speed of the Gems.

Session 2

Group C: Jamaica 85 – 29 Fiji

Top four contenders, Jamaica, stole an emphatic victory, beating Fiji by an outstanding 56 goals. Featuring Celtic Dragons’ Stacian Facey and Severn Stars’ Jodi Ann-Ward, the Sunshine Girls showed flair and power as they stole the show from the pacific island team.

Lining up for Fiji was Celtic Dragons, Dee Bolakoro: “It’s amazing [to make my World Cup debut]. It’s a dream come true for a netball player and a pinnacle point for any netballer to be playing at. I was little but nervous but excited at the same time.”

Group C: South Africa 76 – 45 Trinidad and Tobago

With four Superleague stars named in the 12-woman squad (three of which were named in the starting seven), South Africa’s opening game was set to be one for all Superleague fans to enjoy. South Africa enjoyed a strong start, allowing them to rotate the squad which in turn saw Surrey Storm’s Sigi Burger gain her World Cup debut. On the opposite end of the court, Celtic Dragons’ Kalifa McCollins racked up an impressive 79% success rate in Trinidad and Tobago’s shooting circle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as Wasps Netball and South Africa’s Bongiwe Msomi led her team to a 76-45 victory.

Shadine Van Der Merwe (Surrey Storm) commented: “It feels like home, it’s nice to have some of your fans based in Surrey where I played in the beginning of this year so for them to come to Liverpool and support netball is just great and having a few fans around is just great.”

Group D: England 64 – 32 Uganda

The Vitality Roses stepped out to a unanimous roar from the home crowd in preparation for their opening match. Six Superleague stars joined the Roses, who created an early lead with ferocious pace and composure, before sealing the deal with a 64 – 32 win over sixth ranked Uganda. Gaining their World Cup debuts were Fran Williams of Wasps Netball and Loughborough Lightning captain Nat Panagarry.

Fran Williams commented: “On the international stage we have lots of players from other countries playing within our league and to get that practice is vital. For example, I played a game against South Africa’s Maryka Holtzhausen so having that practice really helps here at World Cup level.”

Nat Panagarry added: “I think the Superleague is getting more competitive and having that constant battle out there with the court time really helps us develop as players and at Superleague we’re both in leadership roles and bringing that into this environment really helps.”

Group D: Scotland 53 – 35 Samoa

An incredible 11 Vitality Netball Superleague athletes walked onto court for the final match of the day. Despite the long lead in time, Scotland remained calm and collected as they looked to kick off their World Cup campaign in style. Strathclyde Sirens and Scottish Thistles captain Claire Maxwell not only marked her second World Cup appearance with a win but took herself one step closer to the ‘100 Club’ earning her 98thcap.

Maxwell commented on the result: “The atmosphere tonight was absolutely fantastic in there and we are really proud to be taking part in this event.

“We had a strong belief that over the four quarters we were going to be the better side. They were strong, I think they’re going to have a good tournament. Physically they’re also very strong, as well as on the ball so I think they are going to have a fantastic tournament and all the best to them in the rest of their games.”

Keep up to date on all the live action by following @NetballSL on Twitter.

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