On the final day of the 2019 Netball Europe Open Championships, Wales put the Republic of Ireland to the sword with in a comprehensive 91-24 victory to secure a silver medal finish in the competition.
It was immediately apparent that the Welsh players were going to be able to express themselves and put their stamp on the match as the started brightly, moving with superior speed and purpose to their opponents. The Welsh defenders were able to effectively close down the Republic of Ireland’s space and limit their options moving the ball forward. Turnovers were to be the order of the day and Nia Jones was relentless in her pursuit of the ball across the court. Ireland struggled to get their feed in and Clare Jones at WD was quick to swoop when the opposition were short of options. Wales were deservedly way out in front after the first quarter and anyone thinking that they would take their foot off the gas in the second quarter would be mistaken.
An unforced Irish footwork error meant that Wales had the initiative as the second quarter got started. Kyra Jones was absolutely everywhere in mid-court and with Ireland out of position defensively, she was able to easily set-up Georgia Rowe in a shooting position all of her choosing. At the other end, Leila Thomas was kept busy with numerous opportunities to turn the ball over or tip it out to her teammates up court. Chelsea Lewis and Bethan Dyke paired up well at the circle edge and Lewis also enjoyed ample opportunity to assist Rowe in Wales’ ceaseless shooting duties. Wales were out of sight at the half.
The need to score as highly as possible in order to be in contention for gold in a tied table meant that Ireland would have no respite as the game resumed. Lydia Hitchings joined the fray for Wales at GS to earn her second cap having made her senior test debut against Grenada in Cardiff back in June. Meanwhile Christina Shaw came on at GK to keep Ireland out as Wales continued to grow their massive lead. Credit to Ireland however, they appeared to have improved their accuracy and recorded a far better score in the quarter.
Both teams continued to play at a furious pace well into the final quarter. Wales were clinical in defence, patiently picking apart Ireland’s frantic attack and then of driving hard up to the circle once in possession of the ball. There was little evidence that Wales’ players had already gone through 45 minutes of netball as the Welsh athletes continued to stride across court with confidence. As the quarter closed out, Lucy Howells came on at GK for her fourth cap and helped Wales see out an incredible win and increasing their run of form to 7 games in a row without loss.
Wales were then right up in contention for Netball Europe gold, but England’s 60-41 win over Northern Ireland meant that the Roses just edged the title on goal average. Nevertheless, Wales’ silver medal along with a win over higher ranked Northern Ireland and the nail-biting draw with England meant that it was a weekend to remember. What’s more, there was also more good news to come as Kyra Jones was named Netball Europe’s Player of the Tournament.
Quarter scores: 20-2 (20-2); 26-3 (46-5); 20-11 (66-16); 25-8 (91-24)
Starting Seven: Georgia Rowe, Chelsea Lewis, Suzy Drane, Kyra Jones, Clare Jones, Nia Jones and Leila Thomas. Bench: Bethan Dyke, Christina Shaw, Lucy Howells, Lydia Hitchings and Eleanor Roberts.