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Queens to fight for third place

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It was a case of so near, yet so far when Malawi national netball team put up a spirited performance, wriggling this way and that, trying to score but still lost 66-55 to the uncompromising reggae girls of Jamaica at North Shore Events Centre in New Zealand.

It was the Queens’ second defeat at the four-team warm up competition for the Commonwealth Games and they made it a 12th loss in 13 matches since last year. These are worrying times for the Queens.

Nonetheless, the margin of the defeat to the reggae girls— or Sunshine Girls as Jamaica are called—gives the Queens a glimmer of hope, considering that the Jamaicans beat New Zealand’s Silver Ferns 59-51 on Thursday.

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Silver Ferns thrashed the Queens 75-42 on Tuesday before finding easy prey in Fiji who they beat 67-52 on Thursday.

During yesterday’s game, the Queens, at some point, held the Sunshine Girls at 33-33 before losing the third quarter 47-44.

Overall, Malawi had a better shooting accuracy percentage of 90 percent against 81 for Jamaica but turnovers and poor defence contributed to the Queens’ downfall.

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Malawi’s top shooter, Mwawi Kumwenda, converted 35 out of 41 attempts whereas Sindie Simtowe- Msowoya, who started the match ahead of Manchester Thunder’s shooter, Joyce Mvula, made it nine out of nine. Perfect.

Similarly, Mvula, who came in at half-time, also converted all her 11 chances. Unfortunately, Mvula and Simtowe-Msowoya could not have started the match together upfront.

In contrast, Jamaica’s top shooter, Romelda Aiken, scored 29 of 35 chances whereas Rebekah Robinson scored 23 out of 30 attempts.

Jhanielle Fowler-Reid was more ruthless, converting 12 out of 14 attempts while Shimona Nelson scored both her two chances.

The Queens started the match with Kumwenda and Simtowe- Msowoya upfront, with Bridget Kumwenda and Thandie Galeta at wing-attack and centre-court, respectively.

Goal-keeper Lauren Ngwira, goal-defender, Towera Vinkhumbo- Nyirenda, and wing-defender and captain, Joana Kachilika were in defence.

The Queens trailed 15-13 in the first-quarter before Jamaica increased the lead to 30-26 at half-time.

It was a similar case at the end of the third-quarter, which ended 47-44 in favour of Jamaica.

Malawi eventually gave away the match at the start of the fourth-quarter when the towering Jamaicans upped their tempo and improved their accuracy, jumping and dancing their way to score with ease.

Today, Malawi face Fiji in a third-place play-off to conclude the Taini Jamison tour whereas Jamaica will battle with the hosts for a gold medal.

Netball Association of Malawi General Secretary, Carol Bapu, said the Whyte Mulilima-led coaching panel had taken note of the Queens’ mistakes ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, a former Queens player has questioned the credentials of Mulilima, saying he was a better umpire than a coach.

“Why are they victimising Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa. We feel the best replacement for [Griffin] Saenda Senior is Peace. Apparently, Mulilima is an umpire. Why did Nam not pick Griffin Saenda Junior as a trainer? We feel their appointments will affect our netball landscape,” she said.

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