1 May 2023

Tala upset top-seeded Malawi for PacificAUS netball title

9:10 am on 1 May 2023
Champions again

Champions again Photo: Netball Australia

Tonga claimed a third PacificAUS Sports netball title in Australia on Saturday night after they defeated top seeds Malawi 54-41 in the final.

There was an electric atmosphere at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre as Tala defeated the Malawi Queens in an entertaining match.

Tonga Netball chief executive officer Salote Sisifa said it was a win for all Tongans.

"Team work makes the dream work. Each person played their role, the players, coaching staff, administrators, the board, government, partners, supporters and the nation as a whole," she said.

"Each party came through to play their role as always and this result is not coincidence but hard work of all involved with results beautifully executed on court by our Tala."

Tight battle

In an encounter between the sixth and seventh ranked teams in world netball, Malawi started with the first centre pass. However, a deflection from Tonga's Valu Toutaiolepo to captain Hulita Veve resulted in the ball soaring down to Tala's Uneeq Palavi for the first goal.

A frenetic first few minutes of play had the ball seesawing between the two sides, however, Tonga settled the fastest, the Tala going out to a two-goal lead before Sindi Simtowe for Malawi scored the African nation's first goal.

Malawi evened the scores with goal defence Martha Dambo getting an intercept and captain Jane Chimaliro scoring.

However, Tonga were ignited by a lively crowd, they attacked every pass and reaped the rewards with the dynamic defensive duo of Kelea Iongi and Toutaiolepo out hunting.

A rare disconnect in Tonga's attack end had the Malawi Queens flying down the court to Chimaliro who put the Queens only one goal behind ahead of quarter time.

Centre Takondwa Lwazi took the first centre pass of the second quarter giving Malawi a goal to even the scores, a miss from Tonga then was capitalised on with the Queens stealing the lead.

The intensity across the entire court lifted with both sides applying physical defensive pressure and proving they weren't afraid to fly for an intercept.

Tonga's Lucia Fauinuku was instrumental in shutting down the Queen's second phase and forced them to take the long route to the goal circle. While Malawi's Laureen Ngwira kept on her toes ensuring the Tonga feeders thought twice before sending the ball in.

An intercept from Tonga captain Hulita Veve catapulted her team forward again, drawing level with the Queens and then intercepting again to enable them to take the lead.

At half-time the score was 23-22 with Malawi just falling short of time to level the scores once again.

Second half charge

Tonga charged early in the third quarter making the most of a few offensive contact calls against the Queens to establish a six-goal lead.

The hard work of Iongi and Toutaiolepo in defence paying dividends. While in attack Palavi continued to slot goal after goal, shooting at 96 percent throughout the series she continued her form in the third quarter.

At the end of a dominant third quarter from Tonga they were seven goals ahead.

Tonga stormed out early in the fourth quarter, turning over the ball in defence to add to their tally.

Fiji finished fourth after losing 56-55 to Zambia, Samoa were fifth after they beat Kenya 59-51 and Papua New Guinea finished eighth following their 56-45 loss to Singapore.

Final placings after the Series - 1. Tonga, 2. Malawi, 3. Zambia, 4. Fiji, 5. Samoa, 6. Kenya, 7. Singapore, 8. Papua New Guinea.