Wales took on Samoa for the first ever time on Welsh soil last night at a busy Sport Wales National Centre, Cardiff. The home crowd was in for a treat as the Welsh twelve sought to make a big statement ahead of the World Cup qualifiers next January.
Once the anthems were sung it was Samoa who drew first blood with a quickfire goal. However, Wales bit back immediately with two of their own as they used the full width of the court to supply goal shooter Georgia Rowe and goal attack Sarah Llewelyn with some tidy ball. A few defensive infringements gifted the visitors some easy goals, but Wales found their rhythm again to lead by 7 going into the first break.
Going into the second quarter, Samoa did very well to score from their opportunities as Leila Thomas worked tirelessly in defending the goal. Wales demonstrated a lot of flare in the midcourt with some looping passes keeping the pressure on Samoa. Nevertheless, Samoa didn’t lose any of their edge or tenacity as they grew their score. However, despite their best efforts, Wales enjoyed a stunning final three minutes to extend their score into the mid thirties and lead by 13 at half time.
The home side must have wanted the second quarter to last forever and it was fascinating to see whether their momentum could be maintained after the ten-minute break. The first five minutes of the third quarter saw a tit-for-tat exchange of goals but as time wore on Wales were able to edge further ahead again. The home side went into the final interval up by 22.
Head Coach Trish Wilcox used the final period to ring the changes as Wales enjoyed a very comfortable lead. Samoa did likewise as they sought to expose their young squad to some invaluable experience. The Welsh replacements certainly made an immediate statement and showed the depth of the 12-strong squad, with Fern Davies’ interception getting the crowd’s approval. Mid-way through the final period, Wilcox sent on Wales debutante, goal shooter Eleanor Roberts for her first senior cap. Celtic Dragon Roberts soon scored her first senior Wales goal as the Cymry showed a touch of class to finish the match 72-46 victors.
Wales now prepare for the second test against Samoa on Thursday at 7.30pm in the Sport Wales Centre Cardiff. Samoa will be looking to end their UK tour on a high and a big crowd is expected. Some limited tickets will be available on the door.
It was also wonderful to be able to host Cardiff University Development U15s and Merlins U15s for a friendly match as a curtain raiser. Congratulations to Merlins and commiserations to Cardiff and Welsh Netball hopes that both teams enjoyed the opportunity to play at Sport Wales. Cwmbran U15s and Eastside U15s will also be facing off prior to Thursday’s match, at 5.30pm.
Scores: Q1 Wales 17 Samoa 10 Q2 Wales 17 Samoa 11 (34-21) Q3 Wales 22 Samoa 13 (56-34) Q4 Wales 16 Samoa 12 (FT: 72-46)
Suzy Drane (C), Fern Davies, Bethan Dyke, Kyra Jones, Nia Jones, Sarah Llewelyn, Cara Lea Moseley, Eleanor Roberts, Georgia Rowe, Christina Shaw, Leila Thomas and Amanda Varey.
Nicolette Tato (C), Sanonu Robertson (v/C), Giorja Fatu, Liana Hogarth, Seiafi Lafaiali’i-Sapolu, Ariana Luamanu, Sisavaii Muliaga, Terrelle Onesemo, Soli Ropati, Tahnyshavaughn Salona, Sanita To’o and Betty Tuipulotu