Memorable Matches: Malawi shocks New Zealand at 2018 Commonwealth Games

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is the Malawi Queens’ massive four-goal win over New Zealand Silver Ferns at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

It was a typically strong start from the rebuilding Ferns in their pool match against Malawi on the Gold Coast but it was the Queens’ spirit and determination that came out the true winner with a massive second half – aided by a 17 goals to nine third quarter – that awarded them their biggest win in Commonwealth Games history.

The Ferns came out firing early, shooting 18 goals to 11 in the first quarter and extending a solid lead thanks to the shooting pairing of Maria Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Folau played her typical moving role out in goal attack, dominating the scoreboard with her ability to turn and shoot while a combination of Sam Sinclair and Grace Kara held ground on circle edge, unfazed by their respective opposition in Takondwa Lwazi and Malawi captain, Joanna Kachilika. But while the first quarter went all in the way of the Ferns, the Queens were not going to back down, holding up better in the second to control ball movement better, seeing both sides score 14 goals apiece to still be down by seven at the main break. 

It seemed that anything Folau could do, superstar shooter Mwai Kumwenda could do better, dominating the scoreboard with speed, consistency and accuracy to boot, with the side not backing down and holding up relatively well against every defender the Ferns threw at them – of which there were many, with the Ferns rotating players constantly. While the defensive unit’s constant changing made it harder for Malawi to keep up with their fresh legs, it also allowed the Queens to gain the upper hand in other areas, such as their consistency, which was well and truly proven in the second half. 

Where New Zealand let go in the second half, Malawi fired up, dominating the quarter to take the lead 42-41 at the final change. Their challenge came at the right time, kicking the Ferns while they were down and poking at every hole in their game plan. While Bridget Kumwenda was kept quiet early, she stood her ground in wing attack to propel the ball into the goal circle, as defensively the work from Loreen Ngwira and Towera Vinkhumbo was spectacular, with the pair relentless. Ngwira and Vinkhumbo picked up plenty of attention from the umpires but shook the Ferns while they were at it, with the Ferns making uncharacteristic errors around the court, racking up 29 penalties and seven turnovers in the second half compared to Malawi’s 18 and four. 

Malawi were clinical with ball in hand, not wasting any time against the Ferns which have an ability to bounce back when least expecting it, controlling the netball across the court and patiently upholding their lead in the final quarter, not allowing New Zealand to take back momentum. A 15 goals to 12 final quarter effort cemented it for the Malawi Queens, defeating the Ferns 57-53 and going down as a history-making match, with the nation never having beaten New Zealand.

Mwai Kumwenda was the star of the show, shooting 41 goals from 46 attempts at 89 per cent, aided by Jane Chimaliro with 16 from 20. Lwazi was crucial in at centre, racking up 25 goal assists and two intercepts, while Ngwira and Vinkhumbo joined forces to collect three intercepts and two deflections to go with  a combined six rebounds. For the Ferns, Folau and Kara formed a constant threat in attack, with Folau shooting 31 goals at 79 per cent while Kara collected 26 assists on circle edge. Selby-Rickit racked up 15 goals from her two quarters on the court and Bailey Mes seven from 12, but defensively Temalisi Fakahokotau did much the same down the other end, racking up a whopping 18 penalties despite only playing in the first and final quarters. Captain Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson also took their turn in the ring but to no avail, unable to outwit the clever and speedy Queens.

This win saw New Zealand knocked out of the running for a gold medal match for the first time in Commonwealth Games history, placing fourth overall and resulting in the resignation of then-head coach Janine Southby

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