Beaten by England
The Malawi Queens have kickstarted their 2022 Commonwealth games with a 66-41 defeat to the hosts, England in Birmingham City.
After suffering a defeat in South Africa against England when they met in friendly games, Queens had to introduce the strong starting seven which include Australia based shooter, Mwawi Kumwenda who partnered Joyce Mvula upfront.
With two world-class shooters in their attacking end in Joyce Mvula and Australia-based Mwai Kumwenda, and the scalp of New Zealand from Gold Coast 2018, the Malawi Queens were always penned as a threat to the Roses looking to go back-to-back. But from the first whistle to the last England looked mostly comfortable as they got to task defeating the world No 7 side.
Jess Thirlby’s England who are the defending Champions started much faster than they had done against Trinidad & Tobago the day prior.
Eleanor Cardwell and Stacey Francis-Bayman both thrived after being handed starting roles and a 35-20 half-time lead set England on their way.
Following half-time changes, the home side stuttered during a drawn third quarter before reasserting themselves quickly after the last break and creating another comfortable final scoreline.
England now have a rest day before returning to court on Monday against Northern Ireland. In the earlier match, Scotland fell to a 83-30 defeat at the hands of the Australian Diamonds
Thirlby opted to make changes to her starting seven for this second pool match, including a new shooting combination.
Helen Housby dropped to the bench with Eleanor Cardwell, who shot 30 from 30 as a replacement on day one, combining with Jo Harten. Jade Clarke shifted out to centre, while Stacey Francis-Bayman was handed the wing defence bib to link up with Layla Guscoth and Geva Mentor.
Francis-Bayman and Cardwell both made instant impacts.
The former picked off the first interception of the match and the latter maintained her 100 per cent accuracy throughout the quarter. In fact, Cardwell wouldn’t miss a shot until just before half-time.
As the opening 15 minutes progressed, Guscoth and Mentor consistently added to Francis-Bayman’s work.
The intensity of the pressure they put on shooters Joyce Mvula and Mwai Kumwenda forced errors, while 17 penalties against the Malawi Queens overall handed England plenty of ball to work with.
A 19-9 quarter set England on their way and an unchanged line-up ensured the home team continued where they left off during the second quarter.
Malawi amended their personnel and the arrival of a shorter goal attack Jane Chimaliro, helped them to get their own scoreboard moving but turnovers against them still proved to be costly.
Thirlby made changes at the interval, introducing Housby at goal attack and keeping Laura Malcolm at centre after her arrival shortly before half-time.
Clarke returned at wing defence with Francis-Bayman moving back a position to goal defence.
Malawi produced a couple of early errors in the quarter before they really settled and clicked at both ends.
Towera Vinkhumbo’s move out to goal defence was a profitable one. Kumwenda and Mvula, back together on court again, found their groove, while England lost theirs in their attacking goal third.
Malcolm couldn’t see options in front of her, a couple of missed shots again came off the arm of Housby and the connection between her and Harten didn’t look as telepathic as it has been in previous seasons.
Malawi rattled England, took a 12-8 lead in the quarter and went on to draw it 13-13.
Cardwell arrived back on court for the final quarter, being put in at shooter alongside Housby. Imogen Allison worked well fresh on court at wing defence and the whole team used the first few minutes to really reassert themselves.
England’s foot went back on the gas for the remained for the final 15 minutes and that ensured they will take a positive feeling into their rest day and next match against Northern Ireland on Monday.
In the post match interviews, Coach for the Vitality Roses said it was a sweet test against the Queens.
It was a good test,” Thirlby said. “It was definitely what we needed; practicing being asked questions along the way in order to ready yourself for games deeper in the tournament.
“That third quarter isn’t good enough. We recognised what they were doing well against us, but we were too slow to choose the best course of action to stop it in its tracks. To a degree some of that can be expected but we’re not accepting of it. So we’ll look to try and rectify some of that for next week. But the first half overall we should be pretty pleased.”
Centre Laura Malcolm, who finished on 15 feeds, echoed her coach’s approval with the result: “We’re really happy with it. It was definitely a lift on yesterday. There’s still a lot to work on so we’re still on our journey of trying to get to where we want to get to, but as long as we keep improving we’ll get to where we’ll want to be.”
The last time the two teams met in the tournament was in 2018 where the Queens suffered a heavy 74-49 defeat. The Queens are Winless in their last five meetings against the Vitality Roses.
The Queen’s defeat means that all the African teams have started their Commonwealth campaign with defeats as Uganda suffered a 53-40 defeat to New Zealand while South Africa also beaten 68-49 by Jamaica.
The current world number seven team, known as the Malawi Queens, made their first appearance at a Commonwealth Games in 1970 and have qualified for every edition since bar the 2002 Games.
Their best finish was in both 2010 and 2014 when they came fifth. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Queens caused a major upset as they defeated the second ranked team in the world, New Zealand, for the first time in history
Quarter-Quarter Results for Malawi
England 19-9 Malawi
England 16-11 Malawi
England 13-13 Malawi
England 18-8 Malawi
England 66-41 Malawi
-England 86.8% GOALS 85.4% Malawi
-England 18 DEFLECTION 12 Malawi
-England 45 PENALTIES 48 Malawi
-England 10 OBSTRUCTION 21 Malawi
-England 3 REBOUNDS 7 Malawi
-England 3 TURNOVERS 20 Malawi
England Starting team
Jo HartenGS, Eleanor CardwellGA, Nat Metcalf (c)WA,Jade ClarkeC, Stacey Francis-BaymanWD, Layla GuscothGD, (c)GK: Geva MentorGK
Malawi Starting team
Joyce Mvula (GS) , Mwai Kumwenda (GA) , Bridget Kumwenda (WA) , Takondwa Lwazi (C) , Martha Dambo (WD), Carlo Mtukule ( GD) , Towera Vinkhumbo (GK)