Diamonds into semi finals
Saturday July 9, 2011
The Australian Diamonds booked a semi final berth with a 58-44 defeat of Malawi in Singapore last night.
Australia went through the pool stage undefeated and were in a for a hard contest against a Malawian team that has a reputation for causing upsets at major tournaments.
The Diamonds started slowly and Malawi did well to restrict their opponents from playing the fast paced attacking style they are known for. Malawi resorted to exerting physical pressure and slow ball movement as way of containing Australia, but the defending champions still scored the first five goals to lead 13-6 at quarter time.
Six straight goals set up a strong second quarter for Australia but some good attacking play from Malawi’s shooters kept them in the contest. The contest started to peter out before there was physicality displayed when Diamonds defender Julie Corletto copped a stray arm to the face. Despite the lack of physicality, Australia led 28-17 at half-time.
In a carbon copy of each previous Australian game at this tournament, Diamonds coach Norma Plummer made changes as she continued to seek out her best combinations.
Caitlin Bassett replaced vice-captain Catherine Cox at goal shooter, Kim Green took over at wing attack from Chelsea Pitman and Laura Geitz along was paired with Sharni Layton in defence.
Malawi started the quarter by scoring three goals to trail by eight and it forced Plummer to restructure her defensive end to restrict scoring opportunities. It paid off as the Diamonds scored five goals to extend their lead to 13 goals at the final break 44-31.
It was a seesawing last quarter as neither side could put their stamp on proceedings and Malawi didn’t give up as they scored five consecutive goals. They trailed by just seven midway through the term before intercepts from Layton and Erin Bell, coupled with some shooting Bassett sealed an Australian win.
Malawi have been world netball’s real improvers in recent years and the Diamonds didn’t underestimate their opponents, especially after their strong final quarter performance.
“That’s probably the best Malawi team I’ve seen out on court,” Diamonds midcourter Kimberlee Green said.
“They were very strong and very fit and they went through the whole game.
“Their defensive side of the game has really improved and showed us how well they can play and have a real go at the World Championships.”
Being pushed in the final quarter was a reality check for the defending World Champions, who have been flat at different stages of their previous games at this tournament.
Green was happy to see her team tested after it looked like it could be a one sided contest on paper.
“They were absolutely amazing and that was exactly what we needed,” she said.
“Obviously going against Sri Lanka was an easier game for us but now having such a hard game made a few of the girls realise that we need to keep on pushing.
“It’s really hard to get out against a hard team after playing some easy games before hand so that was definitely a game we needed in the lead up to the semi-final.”
Bassett continued her stellar form as she shot 21 goals from 21 attempts at 100 per cent accuracy, she’s still missed just one goal so far in this tournament.
Mwayi Kumwenda (21/27 at 78 per cent) was the best shooter for Malawi and no doubt has benefited from playing against the Australian style during her time with Peninsula Waves at Victorian Netball League level.
Natalie Medhurst was outstanding playing at goal attack as she did a lot of hard work inside and outside of the shooting circle. Her efforts along with a return of 21 goals saw her judged as best on court for the Diamonds.
Australia now faces Jamaican in a semi final tonight and One HD will show live coverage from 7:40 pm (AEST).
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