Photo: Netball Singapore
After a 16-year wait, Singapore clinched the Mirxes Nations Cup once again in front of a packed OCBC Arena, following a thrilling victory over Papua New Guinea in the final.
The two teams were evenly matched coming into Saturday’s (October 28) showdown. Just six days earlier, in the tournament opener, Singapore had narrowly lost to the same opponents with a score of 52-50, and the stage was set for a riveting rematch.
Papua New Guinea, the 2008 Nations Cup winners, was on an undefeated run in the tournament entering the final of this edition of the tournament, and they wasted no time resuming their impressive form. Their precise passing and sharp shooting from goal scorer Goloa Ovoa and goal assist Kala Ali earned them an 18-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Under the leadership of co-captains Khor Ting Fang and Toh Kai Wei, Singapore upped their intensity in the second quarter, gradually taking control of the game. Their high-pressure play forced an error from the PNG side, allowing the home team to counterattack and level the score at 23-all. This momentum was further boosted by an impressive 5-point streak, propelling Singapore to a 28-23 lead at the end of the period.
In the second half, the dynamism of wing defence Ting Fang, center Tan Yi Jie and wing attack Angelina Lim effectively choked off the supply line from the PNG side. In addition, vice-captain Aqilah Andin and goal keeper Jamie Lim exhibited stellar defensive skills, nullifying Papua New Guinea's offense.
With pinpoint shooting from goal shooter Amandeep Kaur Chahal and goal assist Kai Wei, the team in red outscored their opponents 13-11 in the third quarter, establishing a commanding 48-37 lead heading into the final period.
Papua New Guinea regrouped and launched a determined 10-4 scoring run, narrowing the gap to 47-52. However, Singapore regained their composure and maintained their lead.
In a touching moment, former captain Charmaine Soh entered the game as a substitute in the final minute, met with thunderous cheers from the crowd. It was a fitting farewell for the 33-year-old player in her last international match, as Singapore triumphed 59-56.
After an illustrious 12-year career, adorned with Asian Championships and ASEAN Games gold medals in her prize cabinet, Soh retired on a high note, lifting her first Nations Cup. Amidst the well-wishes from the netball fraternity, tears streamed down Charmaine’s face as she expressed high hopes for the current crop of players: “I am proud of the girls and everyone who made it to the finals. And we won the gold medal! They play for the team, there are no individuals, and the future is very bright for Singapore.”
The performance of the second team from the host nation in the tournament further validated Charmaine’s observation. In the 5th and 6th placing match, Singapore A, with an average age of under 21, defeated the world's 20th ranked Sri Lanka with a score of 55-48. 19-year-old Norah Gabriel was elated with the team's achievements and affirmed their growth, “We didn’t enter the tournament very confidently, but we built up our confidence and it ended really well.”
The 3rd and 4th placing match between Cook Islands and Canada delivered a nail-biting finish, with the 2017 champions from the South Pacific ultimately prevailing with a 49-48 victory.
Check our Netball Singapore's Facebook page for event photo coverage as well as unforgettable moments from Charmaine Soh's incredible international netball career.
Photo: Netball Singapore