Queens lose to England’s Roses

Relentlessly torn apart, ruthlessly executed.

The Queens yesterday lost by a 25-basket margin to England’s Roses in their opening Pool A game at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Queensland, Australia, and this morning they face Uganda’s She-Cranes’ stern test in their quest to remain in world’s top six.

England’s Geva Mentor (L) tries to block Mwawi’s attempt

Led by their iconic goal-shooter Mwawi Kumwenda, the Queens had a remarkable 91 percent shooting accuracy against the Roses’ 85, but they appeared slow in build-ups and their transition was also awful from the word go.

Mwawi turned on a vintage show —that sudden change of pace, a movement so beautiful she looked more of a ballerina as she turned and twisted—converting a basket after another with ease and by the third-quarter, she had only missed one attempt.

But it wasn’t enough as England subjected the Queens to a netballing masterclass.

The Queens, who featured Mwawi, Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya, Thandie Galeta, Takondwa Lwazi, Laureen Ngwira, Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda and captain Jonana Kachilika in the starting line-up, trailed by only six baskets in the first-quarter (11-17), in which they enjoyed a 92 percent shooting accuracy against England’s 74 with Simtowe-Msowoya as the culprit for the only missed attempt.

And as the Roses turned on the heat, the Queens were forced to make a double substitution—taking off Kachilika and Simtowe-Msowoya for Martha Dambo and Joyce Mvula.

At half-time, England led 33-25. In the third-quarter, Mwawi was rested for Jane Chimaliro, but it was in that quarter that England upped their tempo and led by 11 baskets (49-38).

In the last-quarter, the Queens were swept aside with contemptuous ease and even the reintroduction of Mwawi for Mvula and the coming in of Bridget Kumwenda-Chalera for Galeta had little impact as England hurtled around the court with much effort and resolve and the ball was moved with remarkable grace and intelligence—forcing the tiring Queens into rearguard action.

Later on, veteran defender Caroline Mtukuke-Ngwira was also thrown into service, replacing England-based Laureen.

The Roses imposed themselves totally and by the sound of the final whistle, they were up 74-49.

It was one of the worst Queens’ defeat to England in recent times. The last time they met was at the three test series last November, when  the Queens narrowly lost 62-60. In the other games, they went down 66-60 and 61-53.

Nevertheless, the Queens—ranked sixth in the world and second in Africa—this morning switch their attention to their crucial tie against the seventh-ranked Ugandans—who are steadily breathing down their necks in the quest to topple them on the rankings.

Malawi lost thrice to the She-Cranes in June 2017—twice in the lead to the African Championships (52-39 and 67-34), and then on Day 3 of the event, 66-43.  That helped Uganda to win the continental title and qualify for the Commonwealth Games for the first time in their netball history.

In July 2017, the Queens were ranked sixth in the world with a rating of 137 while Uganda were 13th with 84 rating. Currently, Malawi are still 6th, with 115 rating while Uganda have improved to seventh with a rating of 108.

This means for the past year, Queens’ rating has slumped by 22 steps while that of Uganda has enhanced by 24. They now need to move their rating by just eight to displace the Queens. n

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