Wales continued their excellent run of form with a 51-44 win against Northern Ireland on the opening day of the 2019 Netball Europe Open Championships in Belfast.

The first quarter was nervy as was to be expected with the hosts making some unforced errors to give Wales some early opportunities to score. The Welsh defence put the Warriors on immediate notice, with GK Christina Shaw sniping at some sloppy feeds to turn the ball over. Still, Wales weren’t always clinical under the post and so it remained tight at quarter time.

Wales looked the more focused of the two sides early in the second quarter, Chelsea Lewis at GA looked to reinforce the Welsh feed and as a result Wales were able to convert far more chances early on. Again, Wales’ defence sent the Northern Irish drive sideways and along with some excellent feeds from Kyra Jones, Wales were able to keep the hosts at bay.

Unfortunately, Nia Jones picked up a caution in the second quarter and so as a result, head coach Julie Hoornweg had to reorganise the squad. This was good news for Clare Jones who came on to represent Wales for the first time since a hand injury ruled her out of Wales’ 2019 summer tests. Changes seemed to hand Northern Ireland a bit of momentum as Wales stalled in the period and the hosts drew level. Fortunately, the strength and familiarity of connections on the Welsh bench meant that the management had plenty of tactical options available and by quarter time the ship was steadied.

Wales always looked likely to hold on as the final quarter began, but it was great to see Eleanor Roberts inject a further degree of patience into Wales’ attack as the Warriors looked to spoil the party. Further squad rotation meant that players were able to get a good taste for the weekend’s competition ahead of the challenge of England to come. The final scoreline did not do justice to a tenacious Northern Ireland, who just lacked the depth to really challenge for the lead at crucial moments in the game.

Wales will face England at midday tomorrow (Saturday 28 September) and the game will be shown live on Welsh Netball’s Facebook account and the YouTube channel of Netball Europe.

Quarter scores: 10-12 (10-12); 10-13 (20-25); 15-12 (35-37); 9-16 (44-51)

Starting Seven: Georgia Rowe, Chelsea Lewis, Beth Dyke, Kyra Jones, Nia Jones, Leila Thomas & Christina Shaw. Bench: Eleanor Roberts, Lydia Hitchings, Lucy Howells, Suzy Drane and Clare Jones.