Sunshine Girls open with dominant 105-25 win over Sri Lanka at Netball World Cup

By July 28, 2023
Jamaica's Sunshine Girls share a photo opportunity prior to their opening game at the Vitality Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday. Jamaica's Sunshine Girls share a photo opportunity prior to their opening game at the Vitality Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday.

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls expectedly opened their Vitality Netball World Cup campaign with a bang, as they hammered Sri Lanka 105-25 in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday.

The number four-ranked Jamaicans were dominant from the start and didn’t relent against their number 15-ranked opponents for a minute with the towering combination of Romelda Aiken-George and captain Jhaniele Fowler sharing goal shooting duties across two quarters apiece.

Though the Sunshine Girls usual bad habit of making unforced errors kicked in at one point, Aiken-George with 33 goals from 34 attempts and Fowler with 42 goals from 43 attempts, spared their blushes, as goal attacks Rebekah Robinson and Shanice Beckford, contributed 17 and 13 goals respectively.

With the win, the Jamaicans assume pole position in Pool C, ahead of host South Africa, who were 61-50 winners over Wales.

Jamaica’s Head coach Connie Francis started with two debutants in Latanya Wilson at goal defence and wing defence Crystal Plummer, as Robinson and Aiken-George got the starting goal attack and shooter roles ahead of Beckford and Fowler.

The potent attack of the Sunshine Girls saw them open a brisk five-goal lead inside the first 30 seconds, as they displayed their usual speed and flair that delighted crowd, especially when Aiken-George scored a lay-up shot.

In fact, the Jamaicans were so dominant that Sri Lanka’s first goal came almost seven minutes into the opening quarter, which eventually ended 26-5.

Jodi-Ann Ward joined Kadie-Ann Dehaney and the dynamic Plummer in defence for the second quarter and the trio proved too formidable for Sri Lanka’s attackers, as their consistent deflections resulted in the Jamaicans firing in 14 unanswered goals, before the opponents belated got their first almost nine minutes in.

From there, they went on to register a 52-11 half time lead, which all but signalled the writing on the wall for Sri Lanka.

The Jamaicans signalled their intent to hit the century mark with the introduction of Fowler at the start of the third quarter and she flawlessly scored her first 14 attempts, with Beckford providing the necessary support to again outscore Sri Lanka 23-7 for a 75-18 lead heading into the final quarter.

That final quarter represented the best display from Sri Lanka in the shooting circle as the matched the Jamaicans goal for goal in the early exchanges.

However, once the defence lead by Shamera Sterling and player of the game Wilson, found back their rhythm, they forced a number of turnovers and orchestrated some quick transitions for Fowler and Robinson to finish off and propel Jamaica to the 14th 100-plus goal scoreline in the tournament's history.

It was also the first 100-plus score by a team at the World Cup since 2015, when Malawi achieved the feat ironically, also against Sri Lanka.

While the Sunshine Girls scored at 89 percent, they also had 17 turnovers, an issue that Francis is hoping to correct going forward.

“From the first day when we assembled here, I saw the hunger and the will to execute well, and I am very impressed with my team. We made a number of changes just to work on combinations and also to manage the workload because the thing that we are trying to work on mostly is our turnovers.

“We know we have players that can hunt and win balls which makes them dangerous, so it is just to minimize the turnovers some more and we will be good,” Francis said.

For Fowler, the execution was on par for the most parts.

“We wanted to come out and practice some of our strategies and make sure we are cementing some of our plays. Romelda and I are both amazing shooters so either one starting a game is fine, we are just more focused on gelling as best as we can and just going one game at a time,” the captain shared.

The Sunshine Girls will next face Wales on Saturday at 4:00 am Jamaica time.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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