England 45-61 Australia
New Zealand 45-52 Jamaica
South Africa 47-49 Uganda
Malawi 64-54 Tonga
Having lost out to New Zealand by a goal in the last Netball World Cup final – four years ago in Liverpool, Australia ensured there would be no repeat of such a scenario. They defeated England 61-45 in the final in Cape Town on Sunday to stay in the driving seat with a 12th title in their trophy cabinet.
England were playing in their first ever Netball World Cup final after beating defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals while the Australians were contesting their ninth consecutive gold-medal match, having never finished lower than second in the tournament’s 60-year history.
Australia came out firing to take a two-goal lead after the opening exchanges, Steph Wood proving to be the creative force for the Diamonds on attack early on. England coach Jess Thirlby responded immediately, bringing on Fran Williams for Layla Guscoth at goal defence. The move proved an effective one with the Roses managing to close the gap and equalise at 12-12, but throwing away their opportunity to edge in front while the Australians were doing well to hold onto their possession. There was nothing to separate the teams by the first break, however, as they finished the quarter all square on 13-13.
It was the Diamonds who looked more in control after the break, showing patience to work their way around the England defence. While the Roses continued to work hard on turning ball over, they weren’t always capitalising on those opportunities that had been created, thanks to some solid defence from Jo Weston at goal defence and Courtney Bruce at goalkeeper.
That saw the Diamonds edging ahead and taking a four-goal lead into halftime and matter remained until England lost their hopes of winning their first Netball World Cup title.
But earlier in the day, Uganda beat hosts South Africa 49-47 in what seemed to be a more suited fixture than the two sides’ meeting three days back. The result gave Uganda a fifth position finish in the Netball World Cup 2023 – the best performance at this stage.
The all-African showdown for fifth place saw the She Cranes revenge their final group loss to Protea, three days earlier. Uganda got the better of South Africa in a similar fifth-place playoff – almost a year ago on the day the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham ended.
Going into the game on Sunday, Uganda were already assured of their highest ever finish at a Netball World Cup – their previous best being seventh place in 2019 – and they took another massive step up in 2023, dethroning the South Africans – becoming the most top side on the continent.
Ugandans went into the game – exhibiting their intent – turning over the first centre pass and racing to a four-goal lead before the South Africans could register on the scoreboard. Multiple unforced errors from the nervous Proteas saw them losing unnecessary possession as they spent most of the first period playing catch-up. By the first break, the hosts had managed to close that gap to just one goal.
South African coach Norma Plummer switched Bongi Msomi to wing attack and the taller Izette Griesel to centre at the start of the second quarter as the South Africans slowly started swinging the momentum in their favour. But while the defenders earned plenty of turnovers – Jeanté Strydom particularly impressive in stealing two centre passes – the Proteas’ attack struggled to convert those into goals.
Uganda continued to throw everything at the home side, with goal attack Shadiah Nassanga eventually receiving a warning for repeated obstruction just before half-time, which ended 23-23.
On resumption, the She Cranes seemed starved and the resultant reaction proved decisive in separating the two sides. Uganda took their time in their own attack, with Mary Nuba and Irene Eyaru doing the business in the circle – pushing the Proteas work hard for their goals.
The Ugandan defence of Falidah Kadondi, Muhameed Haniisha and Shaffie Nalwanja did an excellent job – pressing down the usually reliable Protea’s star Nichole Taljaard, who had terrorised New Zealand earlier in the week in both sides’ draw. The goal attack was ease – throwing away plenty of chances.
Uganda headed into the final break with their noses in front but the Proteas managed to level matters at 40-40. The home team couldn’t push on from there, however. Yet another unforced error from the South Africans allowed Uganda to edge ahead and this time they didn’t look back, surging five goals in front at one stage. The She Cranes still held a two-goal lead heading into the final two minutes, and they slowed things right down, looking to hold on to possession to wind down the clock, and so securing a memorable 49-47 victory.
Ugandan coach Fred Mugerwa sounded excited after the final whistle – saying his player had followed instructions.
“The match went the way we wanted it…. We made mistakes in the first match we played against South Africa – we gave them a lot of respect and because of that they went ahead by many goals.
“When we tried to catch up those goals, which we did, by the fourth quarter we were very tired and could not go beyond,” Mugerwa said.
She Cranes captain Irene Eyaru added: “On behalf of the team I’m so, so proud because we have been looking for a way of beating South Africa right from the word go. We wanted to show the whole world that Uganda is the best team in Africa.”