Ireland overcome Hong Kong to claim Four Nations crown

February 12, 2018

 

With commanding victories over Grenada and Ireland, it seemed like Hong Kong could go all the way. 

 

The hosts put on a series of stellar performances that very much belied the fact that they were the lowest-ranked team in the competition, notching a 48-38 win against the towering Grenadians, a strong showing despite a 36-40 loss against Singapore and finally a 43-32 victory over Ireland. 

 

As co-captain Connie Wong pointed out, however, the latter achievement was in part due to Ireland adopting an economical approach to the fixture, with the Irish having already booked their place in the Final by vanquishing Grenada and Singapore. 

 

Nonetheless, Hong Kong were finding their groove in all aspects of the game. Natassia Brakenridge revelled in her role as a mid-court enforcer, displaying at times a near-precognitive ability to intercept opposing passes. Kalani Brown was a solid defensive presence, rising to both the physical task of guarding against Grenada's direct approach (specifically against the lumbering Kelsie Murrel-Ross), as well as keeping pace with Singapore's nippy attackers. 

 

Hong Kong's attackers were equally on song, with the irrepressible Connie Wong dovetailing with fellow co-captain Kate Jolly to drive the ball into the opposition half, where the reliable hands of Krystle Edwards, Angela Chan and Michelle Arkell were waiting to find the net with unerring precision and fashioning chances from rebounds. 

 

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Unfortunately, so were Ireland. Where goalshooter Jan Hynes was previously isolated by the Hong Kong defence, supply lines from the wings were now restored and the feisty veteran duly put on an attacking masterclass for the hundreds in attendance, supported by the in-form Chris Tuataga, Fran Duffy and Ciara Murphy. 

 

Despite the Irish playing with added intensity from the start, perhaps fuelled by the desire to avenge yesterday's loss, Hong Kong proved themselves more than a match in the initial stages, clawing back a 11-13 deficit to finish the first half 15-14 to the good. 

 

Ireland produced a comeback of their own by seizing the lead in the third quarter, pinning Hong Kong deep into their own half and forcing uncharacteristic errors on both attacking and defensive fronts, bringing the scores to 17-21. 

 

Thankfully, there was to be another twist in the tale, as the tall-and-short partnership of Edwards and Chan burst into life, with their attacking endeavour bringing the scores to 21-22 much to the elation of the home crowd. 

 

This latest development was to set the scene for a period of breath-taking netball action. Physical challenges were flying in all across the court, as interceptions were met with interceptions, goals with goals, both sides leaving nothing behind in an all-out slugfest as the final outcome of the Four Nations Cup hung in the balance. 

 

However, this was one game Ireland were not about to lose. 

 

The Irish defence was uncompromising, its attack unrelenting, as a valiant effort from an embattled Hong Kong side was ultimately insufficient to prevent the visitors from coming away with a 31-27 victory. 

 

 

Despite their Final loss, Hong Kong co-captains Connie Wong and Kate Jolly believe there are plenty of positives to take from the tournament. 

 

"I think it's been a tough four days. All four games were physical and closely contested as all four teams were quite close ranking-wise," said Wong. 

 

"Obviously we would have loved to end with a win and the trophy, but to come here and finish first (after qualifying rounds)- we didn't expect that at the beginning of the tournament." 

 

"I'm proud of our team and the performance they put in over these four days," remarked Jolly. 

 

"The fact that we've been able to play tournaments close together means that we have just been able to get better and better every time we hit the court." 

 

"It was a lot more physical today, a lot more contested netball but I'm really proud of how the girls stood up to that and kept playing." she added. 

 

The Ireland captain, Genevieve Slater, was elated by her side's triumph. 

 

"We're absolutely delighted by the win today. We knew Hong Kong were going to be tough for the full 15 minutes of every quarter and they were," she commented. 

 

"We stuck to our game plan, stayed patient and moved the ball around and we're absolutely delighted to take home the win here!"

 

Hong Kong's next major tournament will be the Asian Netball Championships in Singapore, expected to take place in September, 

 

Full results:

 

Game 1: Ireland 40 : 26 Singapore 

 

Game 2: Hong Kong 48 : 38 Grenada 

 

Game 3: Ireland 35 : 32 Grenada 
 

Game 4: Hong Kong 36 : 40 Singapore 

 

Game 5:  Grenada 44 : 44 Singapore 

 

Game 6: Hong Kong 43 : 32 Ireland 

 

3rd-place Final: Singapore 44: 52 Grenada 

 

1st-place Final: Hong Kong 27: 30 Ireland

 

 

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