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Diamonds book semi-final berth with hard fought victory at WNC2011
The Australian Diamonds have booked a spot in the 2011 World Netball Championships Semi-Finals with a hard fought 58-44 victory over Malawi Queens at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday night.
The Diamonds guaranteeing a top four finish at the championships after holding off a strong and physical challenge from the Queens in a cautious performance.
“It was very physical and they play a completely different game on court to anyone I know,” Australian Diamonds mid-courter Kim Green said.
“They play backwards all the way and are very difficult to defend.”
Fresh from their rest day on Thursday, the Diamonds made a measured and tentative start to the quarter-final as Malawi prevented the Australians from playing the hard and fast style we’ve become so accustomed to.
The Queens made up for the Diamonds distinct height advantage by playing a physical contest against the defending champions but the Australian’s were quick out of the blocks, scoring the first five goals of the match.
The unorthodox style of Malawi causing headaches for the Diamonds with their patient ball movement forward and possession conscious style of play frustrating their opponents.
Leading 13-6 at quarter-time, the Diamonds scored six straight goals to increase the lead however great movement and strong front cuts across the top of the circle from Queens’ shooters Mwayi Kumwenda and Sindi Simtowe opened up space to reduce the margin to ten goals.
The contest was getting a bit willing with the physical play on court as Julie Corletto dropped to the court after receiving a stray arm across the face but the 24-year old was back on her feet after some treatment.
As predicted, coach Norma Plummer again wielded changes at halftime, with star shooter Caitlin Bassett replacing Catherine Cox at goal shooter, Green taking on the wing attack responsibilities from Chelsea Pitman and the combination of Laura Geitz and Sharni Layton in the defensive circle.
Immediately the intensity and pace lifted for the Diamonds after the main break but again Malawi were quick to settle the speed as they continued to stretch the Australian defence to find space under the ring.
Trailing 28-17 at half time, Malawi scored three goals in a row to reduce the margin to eight goals, forcing the Diamonds to adjust to a zone defence in a bid to stem the flow of scoring before Australia returned fire to extend their lead to 13 goals heading into the final quarter.
Bell was introduced into the match at wing attack for the fourth quarter while Corletto moved to wing defence, Green into centre and the tall experiment of Cox and Bassett as the shooting combination was again on show.
The seesaw of scoring continued as the game wore on with Malawi scoring five consecutive goals courtesy of great rotations in the shooting circle from Kumwenda & Simtowe, the margin reduced to just seven goals midway through the final quarter.
With the quarter-final result teetering on the edge, timely intercepts from Sharni Layton and Erin Bell shifting momentum back in favour of the Diamonds as Cox and Bassett continued the incredible shooting display at the championships.
Despite Malawi having a sniff of victory in the final quarter, Green welcomed the Queens’ challenge ahead of Saturday’s semi-final against the winner of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.
“They were absolutely amazing and that was exactly what we needed,” Green 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.”
Green paying credit to their quarter-final opponents Malawi, ranked seventh in the world.
“That’s probably the best Malawi team I’ve seen out on court,” 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.”
Diamonds shooter Natalie Medhurst collected the Player of the Match honour for her 21 goals and workload over the first three quarters of the match.
Australian shooting stats:
Catherine Cox 16/20 (80%)
Natalie Medhurst 21/24 (88%)
Caitlin Bassett 21/21 (100%)
Malawi shooting stats:
Mwayi Kumwenda 21/27 (78%)
Sindi Simtowe 23/30 (77%)
Diamonds International Fixtures:
2011 World Netball Championships, Singapore Indoor Sports Centre, Singapore
4 July Australian Diamonds (81) defeated Samoa (23)
5 July Australian Diamonds (75) defeated Northern Ireland (33)
6 July Australian Diamonds (97) defeated Sri Lanka (20)
8 July QF: Australian Diamonds (58) defeated Malawi (44)
9 July SF: Diamonds v Jamaica/Trinidad & Tobago 5.45pm
10 July Final TBC