Liz Watson does everything she can to get in front of Malawi’s Takondwa Lwazi.
Liz Watson does everything she can to get in front of Malawi’s Takondwa Lwazi.

Diamonds shine early but ‘lose way’ at death

The Diamonds have secured a World Cup semi-final spot but coach Lisa Alexander has implored her squad to rid their game of the "basic errors" that crept into the last quarter of their 74-25 rout of Malawi.

The Queens became the defending champions' fifth scalp, having already seen off Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Barbados at an average of 85 goals per preliminary game.

Yet none of those sides is inside the world's top seven, and much sterner tests await later this week including a semi-final match-up probably against either England or South Africa.

The first, though, comes later this week against traditional New Zealand, when Alexander may finally show her hand with her preferred starting seven, having rung the changes every match - almost every half.

Malawi was no exception.

"We're still having a look at combinations at this stage, but I think after today we'll look back at the initial group stages and make our decision about who we're going to put out on court against New Zealand," Alexander said.

"I was actually kind of nervous about it because you don't know what you're gonna get from Malawi half the time.

"We weren't locked into the semi-finals until we won this game. I don't like getting ahead of myself so I wanted to make sure we got through this game successfully.

"Obviously we'll have a semi-final opportunity but the game against New Zealand on Thursday is critical to see who ends up in that better semi-final time wise and also the second place in the other group."


Grace Mwafulirwa beats Liz Watson to the ball.
Grace Mwafulirwa beats Liz Watson to the ball.

Against an uncharacteristically obliging Malawi, Alexander may have landed on her most clinical attacking combination.

Goal shooter Caitlin Bassett and goal attack Gretel Tippett were far more cohesive than their Zimbabwe hiccup and received superb service from Paige Hadley at wing attack and Liz Watson at centre.

The quartet had a field day from the off, with Bassett and Tippett both finishing a 21-2 opening quarter at 100 per cent accuracy and Hadley in particular running riot.

Down the court they drove, their transition to attack as unsparing as Malawi's turnovers were generous.

Defence was tight too, and the world No.9s struggled just to move the ball up the court.

Gritty goalkeeper Courtney Bruce was named best on and Jo Weston, who earned player of the match against Barbados at wing defence, was moved back to goal defence and Jamie-Lee Price reinstated to the former.


Stephanie Wood lines up a shot.
Stephanie Wood lines up a shot.

But Malawi mustered a concerning third-quarter comeback following wholesale Diamonds changes, with only Bruce, Price and Watson left in position.

At one point it was as close as 10-8 as Australia's opponents scored more goals in one term than they mustered the entire first half, before Australia pulled away to finish 20-9.

A similar pattern repeated in a 13-11 final stanza, though Caitlin Thwaites completed a second-successive perfect game to give her 134 goals from 136 shots for the tournament.

"We prepared well for it I thought and we executed really well, particularly the first three quarters," Alexander said.

"We just lost our way a bit in that last quarter, a few basic errors that just shouldn't creep in. But that's tournament play and we'll have to make sure we don't do that on Thursday."

April Brandley sat out with an ear injury sustained during Monday's win over Barbados, with a decision to be made about her condition before the New Zealand game.

Earlier, Noeline Taurua's Silver Ferns notched their fifth win on the bounce, easing past Northern Ireland 77-28 before a day off of their own.