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Superleague stars on the charge on day seven of the Vitality Netball World Cup

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 18/07/2019 - Netball - Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 - South Africa v England - M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, England - Serena Guthrie of England.

Day seven at the Vitality Netball World Cup signalled the end of Preliminaries Stage Two as we prepare to enter a weekend of intense battles for placings and medals.

Our 32 Vitality Superleague stars are still shining bright and we are across all of their matches at the tournament. Here’s your round-up of Thursday’s action:

Session 13:

Group F: Northern Ireland 46-43 Barbados

Northern Ireland secured their first points and a fifth-place finish in Group F with a narrow win over Barbados as both nations won two quarters apiece. Tight scorelines have been fairly consistent for Dan Ryan’s team at the World Cup but they have often found themselves on the wrong end of the result. However, Manchester Thunder’s Caroline O’Hanlon was dominant at centre, managing 39 feeds and 22 assists, as the captain led the charge to a much-needed victory. London Pulse’s Fionnuala Toner was important at wing defence, matching O’Hanlon’s four intercepts, while Saracens Mavericks’ Michelle Drayne’s work in the first quarter feeding the shooters helped keep her side look threatening on the attack.

Caroline O’Hanlon said: “As always it was a tough physical encounter, they’re a good team and they’ve been playing well over the last few days so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They came out fighting to the very end.

“Our aim for this tournament was to better our position in the world rankings but unfortunately, we have played well at times but were the wrong side of some of those results. We can’t undo that so our focus now is to finish ninth.”

Group F: Australia 50-49 New Zealand

The Vitality Netball World Cup’s greatest rivalry produced arguably the game of the tournament as Australia squeezed past Oceanic neighbours New Zealand in a thrilling encounter. The Silver Ferns’ ability to compete against the top sides had been questioned in the aftermath of their disappointing Commonwealth Games performance in 2018 but they gave the world number ones an almighty push in the second half. Maria Folau, who shot 21/24, had an opportunity in the dying seconds to salvage a draw as Jo Weston and her defence held on by the thinnest of margins. The Diamonds take top spot in the group with Liz Watson and Kelsey Browne’s efforts in the midcourt offering much encouragement to head coach Lisa Alexander as both of these teams gear up for the semi-finals.

Group F: Zimbabwe 43-59 Malawi

Malawi confidently dispatched of the vibrant Zimbabweans to secure third place in the group in a colourful all-African affair. Manchester Thunder’s Joyce Mvula starred with impressive shooting figures of 41/43 for the Queens and, while Zimbabwe never yielded, they were frustrated by their opponents. Six minutes of the third quarter elapsed before they recorded their first point as Malawi retained possession well throughout the contest with 56% of the ball. Severn Stars’ Adelaide Muskwe, who made her World Cup debut against New Zealand on Monday, was an unused substitute for Zimbabwe while London Pulse’s Loreen Ngwira’s arrived late on the final period at GK for Malawi with the win already secured.

Session 14:

Group G: Trinidad & Tobago 43-43 Scotland

The Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 has its first draw after Strathclyde Sirens’ Lynsey Gallagher converted a penalty in the final play of an extraordinarily tight match as both sides finish Group G without securing a win. The result does not alter the standings due to the Calypso Girls superior goal percentage so they finish fifth ahead of Scotland but that did not detract from a moment of euphoria for the Thistles. It was neck and neck for long periods until Trinidad began to pull away in the final quarter with Celtic Dragons’ All-Star VII goal-attack Kalifa McColin impressing with 12 assists and 22 feeds. However, Scotland refused to be beaten and Gallagher, who was magnificent with 92% shooting accuracy, netted in the closing seconds to ensure her team go into their next match in a buoyant mood.

Hayley Mulheron spoke about how the national team has benefitted from having a Vitality Superleague club: “It’s where we build combinations, it’s where we get experience and learn from each other. It’s excellent that Sirens are in there and we want that to continue so we can develop our Scottish girls.”

Group G: Jamaica 61-48 Uganda

Jamaica remain determined to secure a fifth-place finish at this World Cup after seeing off the threat of Uganda. The Sunshine Girls were among the favourites to lift the trophy before consecutive defeats to South Africa and England respectively derailed their assault on the title. Having refocused with a win over Scotland on Wednesday, the World Number Twos – including Celtic Dragons’ Stacian Facey and Severn Stars’ Jodiann Ward – controlled the game against Uganda with a particularly dominant display in the second quarter. The She-Cranes were competitive in the other periods but could not recover as they finish fourth in Group G – Loughborough Lightning’s Mary Cholhok was an unused reserve.

Facey: “Very good for us since we have lost our chance to get to the semi-final. We are good, we are solid, we stick to each other, we are family so we’re good, nothing affects us. Mentally we’re good, same energy.”

Group G: South Africa 47-58 England

The battle for top spot in Group G ended in ecstasy for the Vitality Roses as a rampant first-half display set them on their way to another triumph over one of the tournament frontrunners. South Africa were unbeaten heading into this contest – including a historic victory over Jamaica- and had confirmed their place in the last four with a win over Uganda on Wednesday. However, the intensity of Team Bath captain Serena Guthrie and her troops – galvanised by the vociferous home support – overwhelmed the Proteas who trailed 11-19 after the opening quarter. Captain Bongiwe Msomi, who also skippers Wasps, limped off to compound their troubles. Surrey Storm’s Shadine Van Der Merwe struggled to contain her opposite number Chelsea Pitman, while Severn Stars’ Maryka Holtzhausen was not her usual self in the circle with just 70.4% shooting accuracy under the pressure of dominant Team Bath defender Eboni Usoro-Brown. Storm shooter Sigi Burger came on for the final quarter which South Africa won with Wasps’ duo Fran Williams and Rachel Dunn, as well as Loughborough Lightning’s Nat Panagarry, receiving brief cameos. The result confirmed both teams’ semi-final opponents with England facing New Zealand and South Africa taking on World Cup holder Australia.

Guthrie said: “I definitely think we’re getting to where we want to be, we’ve improved game on game in different ways in each area of the court so I think for us now it’s about having a look and tweaking again for Saturday. New Zealand have a lot of experience throughout the whole court but so have we. I think it’s going to be a great battle, we’ll go back now and look at the video of today’s game against the Aussies and see what we can come up with.”

Msomi discussed the game and her injury: “I just did my ankle so I’m hoping it’s just that and will be back for the next game.

“Up until now to be fair we’ve been quite aware of what we can do and what we can produce on the court and I think today we’re really happy that we can do better so I think we’re looking forward to the semi-finals.”

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