NETBALL

So close: Hong Kong suffer heartbreaking one-point defeat by Malaysia in thrilling Asian Netball Championship semi-final to miss out on return to final

Robin Manihera’s side lose 35-34 at the National Stadium in Bangkok and will now face disposed two-time defending champions Singapore in Sunday’s third place play-off

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 11:22am

Hong Kong agonisingly missed out on a first appearance in the final of the Asian Netball Championship in 23 years after suffering a 35-34 defeat by Malaysia in Saturday’s enthralling semi-final in Bangkok.

Robin Manihera’s side were leading 18-15 at half-time against the previously unbeaten third seeds and group B winners, but fell short of securing a return to the final for the first time since winning the 1993 title on home soil after falling 29-27 behind against the world number 22 heading into the final quarter.

Back in the groove: Hong Kong beat Thailand to set-up Asian Netball Championship semi-final with Malaysia

The fourth seeds must now pick themselves up for Sunday’s daunting rematch in the third place play-off against disposed two-time defending champions and number one seeds Singapore, who earlier lost 36-30 to second seeds Sri Lanka, having beaten Hong Kong in the group stage on Wednesday.

“We had a hard fought, very physical game against Malaysia, we were unfortunate to lose,” said Hong Kong captain Jessica McCauley.

“Victoria Smith had a calf injury in the second quarter, but it was a huge credit to the girls to adapt and keep our intensity despite the changes. The girls really stood up to the very physical nature of Malaysia’s game and fought goal for goal until the very last seconds of the game.

“We will regroup and look to start strongly against Singapore and bring the same intensity from this game.”

Prior to heading to Thailand, confidence was high of bettering fourth place finishes at the last two editions of the tournament in 2012 and 2014 following a gruelling training schedule and the availability of the leading players in the city.

Convincing wins over Taiwan, the Maldives and Thailand in the group stage justified Hong Kong’s ranking as fourth seeds, with the 32-18 loss to Singapore highlighting areas of improvement needed to break into the top three in Asia.

Reality check: Hong Kong suffer defeat by Singapore at Asian Netball Championship, but are still in the hunt for the semi-finals

And while the narrow defeat by Malaysia ended hopes of the title, world number 26 Hong Kong will look to continue to take steps forward having lost 63-28 to Singapore in their previous meeting with the current world number 17.

“The team is gutted after the loss against Malaysia, but we will bounce back for the third and fourth place play-off and look to finish on a high,” said Hong Kong vice-captain Anna Pinder. “Our strength is our team morale and we will work hard for each other.”