Netball: Playoff joy for Malawi, Samoa and Cooks

It was all smiles for Malawi, Cook Islands and Samoa at the netball world championship in Auckland today as the identity of all eight quarterfinalists was laid bare.

Conversely, disappointment reigned for Wales, Fiji and Trinidad, who lost sudden-death matches in the final round of pool play at Trusts Stadium.

While big-name teams continued on their winning way, most interest centred around three pivotal matches to complete the makeup of the quarterfinals.

All three were tight, tough encounters, with the winners generally showing greater mental toughness in the final quarter to triumph.

The clash between Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago was the definition of physical warfare, with fouls and stoppages ubiquitous throughout a torrid 60 minutes.

Samoa trailed for most of the game - by as much as six goals midway through the third quarter - but a 7-1 burst early in the final stanza gave them a lead they clung to for a 52-48 win.

The Cook Islands upset long-standing rivals Fiji 42-36, sneaking clear late in the game and upsetting the recent record of the Fijians, who reached the last eight at the last two world championships.

Key to their victory was some strong defence from the experienced Angela Tangimetua and a brilliant performance by captain and centre Ritua Petero, who provided the spark for her team's short passing game.

"We knew that Fiji are very powerful and look for a lot of ball in the air," Petero said.

"We tried to keep it short, that was our game plan and that worked for us today."

There was never more than two points between the teams at each break but fitness played a role in a frenetic final quarter.

Earlier, Malawi clung on to beat Wales 55-52 to finish second behind New Zealand in pool A.

Malawi broke clear early and led by 10 goals before the first quarter break.

Slowly that advantage was whittled down to three entering the final stanza but Wales couldn't make further headway.

Captain Peace Chawinga and goal attack Mary Waya proved adept at feeding the ball to tall, accurate shooter Linda Magombo in times of crisis.

Malawi will face England in Thursday's quarterfinals while the Cook Islands will meet Australia.

The makeup of the other quarterfinals will be determined by tonight's late match between unbeaten England and South Africa.

The winners will face Malawi on Thursday while the losers will play hosts New Zealand.

Australia and Jamaica remained unbeaten in effortless style today.

The Australians swamped Scotland 93-20 while the Jamaicans crushed Singapore 91-35.

However, there was concern in the Australian camp after midcourters Selina Gilsenan and Natalie von Bertouch within moments of each other soon before halftime.

Wing defence Gilsenan and centre von Bertouch were both taken off court, with Gilsenan's apparent ankle injury looking the most serious.

Von Bertouch slipped and was knocked in the head by an opponent but appeared fresh later.

In the clash of two winless teams, Barbados outclassed Malaysia 62-38.

- NZPA


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