The Fiji Baby Pearls came into this game knowing the result, no matter a win or loss, would be Fiji’s best ever showing at a tournament of this level. England had never finished lower than fourth and after disappointment against Australia were looking to add a bronze medal to their tally.

Starting line-ups:

GS: George Fisher GS: Visili Tavui
GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis GA: Maliana Rusivakula
WA: Jessica Shaw WA: Talei Waqainabete
C: Gabriella Marshall C: Ana Moi
WD: Imogen Allison WD: Annabella Sorby
GD: Francesca Williams GD: Verenaisi Sawana
GK: Summer Artman GK: Episake Kahatoka
Bench: Amy Clinton, Iona Darroch, Victoria Oyesola, Razia Quashie, Chiara Semple Bench: Lydia Panapasa, Laisani Waqa, Aliti Toribau, Alisi Galo, Merelita Waqanidrola

Umpires: Tara Warner and Gareth Fowler

 

The first few minutes were fairly even as both teams took a while to settle into any clear rhythm. Fisher overthrew her first shot on goal which bounced out over the line, but Fiji only held possession for a few seconds before a stepping call halted them in the midcourt. The high turnover rate continued for the first part of the first quarter with England eventually managing to get on the scoreboard first under heavy defensive pressure from Kahatoka.

The turnovers continued for both teams, with defence at both ends remaining steadfast and putting off both feeders and shooters. Even at 3-all with four minutes played, England went on to score eight of the next nine goals as they found space in the midcourt and capitalised on Fiji’s unforced errors in attack. The desperate long and swinging balls from Fiji were all too often being intercepted in the midcourt.

Coach Vicki Wilson made some changes in an effort to stem the flow of the English team who had gone into the first break up 16-5. Tavui moved from GS to WA, Panapasa came on at GS and Waqanidrola moved into GD. Another change two minutes into the quarter saw Waqainabete come on at C. Fiji continued to struggle, particularly in their second phase, with desperate passes often picked up by their opposition.

Panapasa, under intense marking from Artman, was finding herself on the wrong end of contact calls as well. The defensive duo of Kahatoka and Waqanidrola struggled against Fisher, who had well and truly found her range and had become a target for feeders. While the Fijian defence were quick to challenge for high balls, and their elevation was impressive, the timing and drives along the baseline from Fisher were allowing feeders to find her easily from the edge of the circle.

England went into the third quarter up by 28 goals and brought on Ayesola at WD and Darroch at WA. Fiji rang the changes bringing Sawana back on at GD, Galo at WD, Sorby at C, Torivau at WA and changing up the shooting circle once again with Waqa coming on at GS. Fiji came into the second half well scoring the first three goals of the quarter.

Rusivakula showed her class with a number of distance shots finding their target. Fiji stayed with England relatively evenly throughout the quarter but lost touch in the last few minutes. England continued their dominance in the circle and settled into the changed line-up a bit more. They went into the last quarter up by 35 goals.

England managed to put all of their players on the court (bar the injured Semple) to finish off the game. Clinton came on at GS, Fisher moved to GA and Quashie came on at GK for Artman. The fatigue from the long tournament and the intense gameplay was beginning to get to Fiji at this stage, who were throwing inexact passes which were picked up easily or went out over the baseline. England too were making unforced errors and struggling to adjust to the new line-up.

Fiji showed some promising signs in defence though with defensive zones designed to hold up England’s play rewarding them with ball on a couple of occasions and a stunning Waqainabete intercept towards the end of the game. The score for the last quarter was even which given the difference in the overall score line shows promising signs for Fiji, who will host the next World Youth Cup in four years’ time.

 

England 70 def Fiji 35 (16-5, 38-10, 57-22, 70-35)
Player of the Match: George Fisher (England)

 

Twitter: @Catrat