Desert Jewels regain sparkle 

The Desert Jewels stunned Tonga to win their first Pacific Netball Series match in Brisbane, Australia on Tuesday. Photo: Netball Australia  

The Desert Jewels showed they are no pushovers as they overcame their underdog tag and slow start to the Pacific Netball Series with a stunning 54-51 success over Tonga in Brisbane, Australia yesterday.

Head coach Julene Meyer lauded her team for bouncing back from Monday’s loss to Samoa and upstage Tonga, the eighth-best World Netball ranked nation.

“It’s wonderful to report back that the Land of the Brave have just beaten the number eight team in the world. Obviously, we are very happy with the win,” she says.

Meyer was especially pleased with how the Jewels reduced their errors, which translated to maximising on opportunities to leave their more fancied rivals flabbergasted.

“I think tonight the players did justice to themselves. We were a lot better on the attack. Our possession losses came down from 61 to 22, which I think is a huge improvement,” Meyer said.

“Our attack played much better. Composure under pressure, dealing with the ball, being patient on the ball and being clinical on the ball. So, I’m very happy with the attacking play tonight.”

The coach reserved special praise for the team’s alert and aggressive defensive effort which nullified the Pacific Islanders.

“In terms of our defence, taking 10 intercepts off number eight in the world is a really big achievement. So, our defence was exceptional,” said Meyer.

“The things that we still need to work on with the defence is the side-side defence, the coverage, front and back, but for now we will celebrate the win,” she said.

In a gripping affair, there was nothing to separate the two nations in a fast-paced first quarter which ended 12 baskets apiece.

Namibia edged ahead in the following segment, winning it 12-11 and followed that up with a 15-13 advantage in the third stanza.

The final quarter mirrored the opening set, with both sides exchanging 14 baskets each.

“We looked forward to playing Tonga. It was great. We really wanted to show what we are about and do better than the first game. I’m grateful and proud of the girls,” Desert Jewels vice captain Cornelia Mupenda said moments after the hard-fought win.

The opening day loss was a wake-up call for the team to remember the objective of their 11 000km mission to Australia.

“We’ve been having a fantastic time in Australia. We’ve worked really hard and want to compete here,” Mupenda said.

Namibia will look to build on that morale-boosting victory today, when they face Singapore, who will be out to avenge the Six Nations Cup final defeat on home soil from 2019.

Singapore have lost all their matches at the Pacific Series so far, first going down 67-52 to reigning champions Fiji on Monday and 62-50 to Australia’s First Nations invitational team yesterday.

A win for the Jewels will move them into the top two ahead of their final two round-robin fixtures.

The hosts take on Fiji in today’s first match, followed by Namibia versus Singapore, with Tonga against Samoa closing out the action.

“Tomorrow [today] we’re on to Singapore, a whole different style of play and speed. We’re going to have to be at our best when we take them on,” Meyer said.

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