In a flat match from both sides, Malawi took some redemption in beating the Irish by eight, courtesy of a goaling spree in the first quarter by the Queens.  Having knocked off the Silver Ferns juggernaut in pool play but lost to Uganda, Malawi had to settle for seventh, below their world ranking and their fifth and sixth placings for the past four years.

Northern Ireland
GS  Lisa Bowman
GA  Oonagh McCullough
WA  Michelle Drayne
C  Caroline O’Hanlon
WD  Fionuala Toner
GD  Noleen Lennon
GK  Gemma Lawlor

Malawi
GS  Mwai Kumwenda
GA  Jane Chimaliro
WA  Takondwa Lwazi
C  Thandie Galleta
WD  Joanna Kackilika (c)
GD  Towera Vinkhumbo
GK  Loreen Ngwira

Umpires: Kristie Simpson (New Zealand), Theresa Prince (South Africa), Jono Bredin (New Zealand) (reserve)

The whole tournament has seen good sportsmanship (Photo: Simon Leonard)

After turning their first centre pass into a handy possession for the Irish, both Malawian shooters treated the crowd to some very nice acrobatics, with Kumwenda having very sticky toes and Chimaliro performing the splits but still goaling. The Northern Irish used fast feet and shorter passes to shift the Queens’ defence, causing the out-paced Malawians to attempt clumsy holding of their opponents. This difference didn’t translate to goals, however, as Malawi strode to a 14-8 lead with 4 mins until quarter time break. There were simply too many misplaced passes to a lateral or sideline lead. The Malawians had much less trouble, as Lennon and Lawler simply couldn’t keep Kumwenda under control for more then two seconds, and the feeds kept sailing in. The highlight for Ireland was Bowman cleverly passing the ball to herself off the post for a much closer scoring position, but her side still trailed 12-18 at the break.

Looking for better shooting access to the shooters, O’Hanlon was swapped with Drayne, providing a bit of extra height and secure hands in wing attack. The Malawi shooting machine kept rolling on – although Lawler only gave four centimetres of height away to Kumwenda, it was the extra length of reach and timing on the jump or stretch to a lob that was undeniable. The Queens also weren’t taking the single path to goal, capable of a very quick double play with Chimaliro and Lwazi getting the goal attack driving the post. Down by 10 goals, coach Rice brought Kyla Bowman to goal attack, with McCullough on the wing and O’Hanlon back to her original centre. The Irish captain dominated the feeding, turning and shaking the defenders with patience and baulks while Lisa Bowman moved enough to provide an option, finishing with better accuracy than her tournament average of 80%, 17 goals at 89% for the first half.  Malawi lead 33-23 at half time.

In the second half Malawi swapped Galleta and Lwazi in their feeding roles. Magee replaced Lawlor for the Irish, and there seemed to be more pep for them immediately – a combination of less defensive pressure from Lwazi, faster double plays from the goal shooter, swinging the ball across the attacking circle to open a shooter, and some handy rebounds and intercepts from the back line. They were now down only 34-38 with five minutes until three-quarter time. Ngwira failed to move her feet, confuse space, and dictate Lisa Bowman’s movements. After all the pressure on the Malawi attack, they suddenly woke up again and resorted to their usual game plan. Kumwenda came out a long way for a huge pass, then had a double or triple play with either Galleta or Lwazi, and her Queens took some breathing space back, ahead 45-37 with fifteen minutes remaining.

Vinkhumbo barely an inch away from the feed to Bowman (Photos: Simon Leonard)

With Malawi resorting to the starting arrangement of Lwazi at wing attack and Galleta in centre, very early the Irish goal defence Lennon called time, with Toner taking her place and Cooper joining on the wing. Parity was maintained, no team being able to make decisive breaks, Malawi 51-43 ahead after seven minutes. Then the ruse for the Irish was revealed – Lisa Bowman went off and was replaced by Northern Ireland’s most accurate shooter, Lennon. At the same time, Joyce Mvula came off the bench for the first time since Malawi’s second game, and Kumwenda moved to goal attack. Each of the two new shooters nailed their first attempt.

Finally with the game won, Bridget Kumwenda and Sindi Simtowe were given the last three minutes of play in attack for Malawi. The Queens cruised in to claim seventh place, but the tarnish of disappointing results early in the week meant there was no celebratory dance this time.

Thandi Galleta satisfied with the win (Photo: Simon Leonard)

Malawi 60 def Northern Ireland 52

Northern Ireland
Lisa Bowman 33/38 87%
Oonagh McCullough 4/7 57%
Kyra Bowman 9/11 82%
Noleen Lennon 6/9 67%
52/65 80%

Malawi
Mwai Kumwenda 48/51 94%
Jane Chimaliro 8/10 80%
Joyce Mvula 4/7 57%
60/68 88%

 

Joanna Kachilika, Malawi

“We’ve enjoyed each and every game, even though other games we didn’t do well. But we managed to come back, so we are happy. Uganda, we played last year, they beat us three times, and this time we lost by two baskets. But we are so proud we came back, we managed to beat New Zealand.

“Much love to the Australian (crowd), they always love to see us playing. So, because of their support that’s why we are managing to play much better, just because of their support they always give us.”

Her feelings about the Commonwealth Games

“Our experience was so great! We enjoyed it, each and every moment, here with the crowds, and at the Games village. We are happy for each and every moment!”

“We are going straight back home. We’ve stayed here for a month, so we’ve missed our families! We have to go back and see them. Yes, some of us are married, so we’ve missed our husbands, relatives, too, we’ve missed them all. So we are happy that we are going back home. We have been in contact with them, so we are happy – but we have to see them physically!”

Caroline O’Hanlon, Northern Ireland captain

“We were disappointed. Malawi’s a really good quality team – it’s just a shame, ‘cos we could’ve taken ‘em today. Our first quarter killed us really. We probably showed that in the second half, but we were flat and lethargic in the first quarter, and we’ve only regrets now. I don’t know what to put it down to. It’s been a long week I suppose. The different style of play, they’re a bit unorthodox, it’s just adapting to that I suppose… we were a wee bit nervous… I dunno.”

“At half time, Elaine just said to go back to our processes, trust ourselves, be aggressive and attack every ball – do what we were doing throughout the tournament. We left ourselves too much to do.”

Her feelings about the Commonwealth Games
“It’s been a brilliant experience! I mean, look at the audience, look at this stadium, this is second to none. The weather, the Gold Coast itself, it’s just been phenomenal. Getting to watch all the other sports, the support of Team NI, it’s just been a great experience.”