NORTHERN IRELAND 37 SCOTLAND 32
Taking on the Scottish Thistles in their own backyard was always going to be a tough test for the Northern Irish netballers, but showing grit, determination and a never say die attitude they psecured a narrow victory.
The win now means that Northern Ireland face their other Home Nation rivals Wales in a play off for seventh place on Friday morning.
The girls in green had a dream start against the Scots taking a 5-0 lead. However, after a tactical time out Scotland regrouped quickly and the game turned into a nail biter going down to the wire.
Credit is due to Northern Ireland’s circle defence of Gemma Gibney (GK) and Nordia Masters (GD) for the pressure they placed on the Scottish shooting circle throughout the match. Kate Carpenter had evidently been working with the netballers on defensive tactics in a bid to maintain a zone both in the circle and at the circle edge to put maximum pressure on Scotland’s attack.
The formation put the opposition under considerable pressure and the Northern Irish girls were unlucky not to receive the benefit of held ball penalties on a number of occasions.
There is no love lost between these bitter rivals and it showed on court.
As the game progressed the physicality increased which put pressure on our shooting circle. Noleen Lennon and Oonagh McCullough did well to keep their heads in the game but will undoubtedly be focused on their conversion rate heading into Friday’s game. Northern Ireland had a 65% shooting average compared to losers Scotland who had an 85% average.
Between the frequent intervention of the umpires due to considerable penalty calls and tactical time outs the game lacked flow but certainly whet the appetite of the fans in the SECC as they sat on edges of their seats. With a one goal lead heading into the last quarter Northern Ireland were evidently determined not to repeat the same mistake made in Cardiff seven weeks ago where the loss to Scotland by a margin of one saw them put out of the World Cup Qualifiers. Undoubtedly the team had this motivation driving them on in the last 15 minutes. In the end it became a game focused on defence.
Every tip, intercept, rebound and loose ball was pounced upon by Northern Ireland, however, as a result of the hard hits Northern Ireland were at times clumsy with possession. But the overall team performance was enough for them to finish the match out by maintaining possession and their important 5 goal win.
Captain Hannah Irvine and Vice-Captain Noleen Lennon will head into their last game prior to retirement from international netball with a focus of obtaining a win and the chance to equal Northern Ireland’s best ever placing at a tournament which was seventh at the 1983 World Cup in Singapore.
Friday’s game against Wales will be at 9.30am.