Malawi National Netball Team’s chances of finishing in the top four of the Commonwealth Games for the first time suffered a huge blow when they lost to New Zealand 69-50 in Birmingham, England, Monday night.
The result means Malawi must rely on other teams including Group B leaders England and New Zealand to slip up to qualify for top four play-offs; otherwise the best they can finish in is the top six.
Following Monday night’s loss, the Queens are third in the group with two points having also lost to England 66-41 while they beat Northern Ireland 54-41.
England top the group with six points whereas New Zealand are second with six points also but with a weaker goal difference.
Uganda lie third with two points but they edge the Queens on goal difference.
Northern Ireland are fifth while Trinidad and Tobago anchor the group. The last two teams have no point. All the teams have played three games each.
Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa made some tactical changes by dropping captain Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira for Lauren Ngwira, who played as a goalkeeper, partnering goal defender Towera Vinkhumbo and Martha Dambo.
In attack, goal shooter Mwawi Kumwenda started the game alongside Sindie Simtowe- Msowoya, who was preferred ahead of Joyce Mvula.
It was a tight game but both teams committed unnecessary turnovers which probably haunted the Queens more than their opponents.
At the end of the first quarter, New Zealand, who were determined to revenge their 57- 53 loss to Malawi during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, led 18-15.
The second quarter was tight but the seventh ranked Queens trailed New Zealand 33-28.
It was in the third quarter where things turned sour for Malawi as they committed unforced turnovers while Mwawi, despite having the game’s shooting accuracy, missed two chances which helped the Silver Ferns to open a commanding lead.
Mwawi was replaced by equally impressive Joyce Mvula before Jane Chimaliro went in for Simtowe-Msowoya.
However, New Zealand led 51-39 at the end of the third quarter.
Chawinga-Kaluwa had not yet responded to our questions by the time we went to press.
Former Queens goal defender Neffie Kam’mata said the Queens should minimise mistakes to stand a chance of finishing in the top six.
“As it is, we should forget about finishing in top four and concentrate of finishing in top six which is possible if we reduce our errors especially in defence and at the centre,” Kam’mata said.
The Queens will rest today before facing Trinidad and Tobago Wednesday. Malawi will conclude Group B matches on Thursday when they face sixth ranked Uganda.
Uganda lost to New Zealand 53-40.