They floated on air and, for a moment, it appeared the Malawi Queens were out to cause an upset against the world’s netball powerhouse, Australia’s Diamonds.
At half time, they were toe-to-toe with the Aussies, level on scores at 28-all and they even won the second quarter 15-12, but in the end, injuries, lack of endurance and mental strength betrayed the Queens, who lost 70-46 to the Diamonds in the second stage of the 2023 Netball World Cup at Cape Town International Convention Centre yesterday.
Height difference did not help the Queens’ cause either.
The Queens took to the court weighed down by the underdog tag, but beaming with confidence and they started at full throttle.
They trailed 16-13 in the first quarter, but put their foot on the gas pedal in the second quarter in which diminutive centre Takondwa Lwazi’s combative promptings and gangly goal attacker Mwawi Kumwenda’s creative displays, were a wonder to behold and the Aussies appeared bemused and a little out of place.
In that moment, the Queens explored their fantasies.
But then, Malawi were dealt a blow when their workhorse Lwazi and lanky goalkeeper Laureen Ngwira limped off the court injured.
Taking advantage of Ngwira’s replacement Shabel Bengo’s short height, Australia introduced a tall goal shooter Soffi Gabin who meshed potently with player of the match Stephanie Wood, and they baptised Queens, who struggled with endurance in the last two quarters with a yawning 24-basket margin and the cathedral-hush silence from the usually vocal Malawi fans spoke volumes on the gulf in class.
In a post-match interview, Queens coach Samuel Kanyenda said: “The injuries, especially that of Takondwa, affected us a lot. Endurance was also a big challenge. We could not raise our game beyond second quarter.”
On her part, Mwawi said the Queens approached the game with a strong-willed spirit, “but needless loss of possession cost us dearly. We were also sluggish at the back”.
She said: “Height also let us down big time and it’s time we seriously looked into that aspect.”
The Queens will rest today, but their last stage two match is against seventh-positioned Tonga tomorrow.
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