Jamaica, South Africa play out preliminary-round thriller in netball

Sunshine joy

Observer writer

Saturday, April 07, 2018

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Gold Coast , Australia — Jamaica and South Africa met in a preliminary round Pool 'A' game at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday afternoon, in a match that certainly lived up to expectations.

The match had the feel of a play-off contest and not just a first-round game, as the capacity crowd revelled in the excitement of the contest in which Jamaica eventually ran out 57-46 winners.

The South Africans were first on the board and maintained a narrow lead for most of the quarter before creating a little bit of a gap towards the end of the first period, and led by five at 15-10 at the end of the first 15 minutes.

The second quarter began in a similar manner as the first as South Africa maintained their five-goal advantage despite the introduction of the experienced Paula Thompson for Aiden Thomas at centre. Jamaica were guilty of making too many turnovers (12 in the first half) and were made to pay by their opponents.

Poor pass selection and rushed passes characterised the play of the Sunshine Girls, who finally got their act together in the last six minutes of the half. Jamaica then slowly ate away at the South African lead and drew level when Romelda Aiken sank the last shot of the half which ended tied at 22 all.

The third quarter took on the same character as the first, with South Africa opening up another six-point lead at 35-29. This was due largely to the quick movement of the ball around the shooting circle, with Sigrid Burgher getting the business done for her team with some deadly shooting.

Jamaica, who were roared on by a mostly Australian crowd, fought back at the end of the third quarter which ended 38-37 in favour of the Proteas. The Jamaican skipper Jhaniele Fowler-Reid scored the first shot of the fourth quarter to draw Jamaica level before scoring again to give Jamaica the lead at 39-38.

It became a ding-dong encounteras the two teams traded goals in an unrelenting battle of wills before Fowler-Reid made her imposing figure work for Jamaica.

The Sunshine Girls were firmly in control at 45-40 and continued to pull away from their opponents. Nicole Dixon and Jodi-Ann Ward, who were introduced in the second half, added defensive energy to complement the efforts of Shamera Sterling and Vangelee Williams as the Proteas suddenly found it a lot harder to get to goal.

The attacking pair of Fowler-Reid and Shanice Beckford continued to drop in the goals for Jamaica, who eventually won by 11 points. The shot of the day went to the Jamaican captain, who was found by an alert Dixon with the clock winding down. Aware that she had no time to play as the crowd counted down the last five seconds of the match, it was a catch and shoot situation for the big Jamaican who let fly an acrobatic effort that looked like a Hail Mary basketball shot than a proper netball effort.

The celebration by the Sunshine Girls at the final buzzer was an indication of how much the win meant.

Fowler-Reid with 29 of 31 attempts, and Beckford with 15 of 20 tries led the way for Jamaica, while Ani Mari Venter with 19 of 23 and Sigrid Burgher with a perfect 15 led the way for South Africa.

Jamaica will next be in action when they take on Northern Ireland on Sunday.

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