Hong Kong beat Asian champions Malaysia to secure place in Tri-Nations netball final
Tournament hosts win 30-26 win at Kowloon Park Sports Centre on Saturday to set up meeting with Zimbabwe on Sunday
Hosts Hong Kong will face Zimbabwe in the final of the netball Tri-Nations event after recording a 30-26 win over Asian champions Malaysia at Kowloon Park Sports Centre on Saturday.
Hong Kong, who lost 46-30 to Zimbabwe in their tournament opener on Friday, crucially turned a 5-5 tie at the end of the first quarter into a 14-10 half-time lead over the world number 19.
And with Hong Kong looking to avenge last year’s heartbreaking defeat in the semi-finals of the Asian Championship, the tournament hosts held onto that advantage at the end of the third quarter before sealing the win.
World number 17 Zimbabwe beat Malaysia 52-29 on Thursday before sealing their place in Sunday’s final with their win over Hong Kong.
“It was a proud moment for the team to come through and show the immensely supportive home crowd what we have always known they are capable of,” said Hong Kong coach Robin Manihera.
“It was a combination of their sheer hard work, grit and determination. The girls have to juggle work, study and home life, and they do it all for the love of the game, for each other and for Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong lost 35-34 to Malaysia last year in Bangkok to miss out on a place in the final for the first time in 23 years, before losing to Singapore in the play-off for third place.
“I feel so proud of the girls for this hard-fought victory. We were certainly seeking redemption after the heartbreaking loss at last year’s Asian Championships,” said Hong Kong co-captain Elise Daly.
“The Malaysians came out firing and brought a very physical game, but we held up to the challenge and we stuck to our game plan. Tonight’s game was a true team effort with all players rising to the occasion.
“The support of the very vocal home crowd was greatly appreciated and definitely lifted us to a higher standard of play.
“All of the girls on court played their hearts out, and it was the teams spectacular defence play that allowed us to steal come crucial intercepts to keep the scoreline in our favour.
“The ongoing strength and conditioning training we have been doing with Mitch, Dave and the crew from Joint Dynamics made all the difference tonight in such a tightly contested game.”
Hong Kong, though, must now re-group for Sunday’s final against Zimbabwe, who won on Friday after outscoring the hosts 17-6 in a key third quarter.
“The crowd support was phenomenal, we could hear them in the last quarter and really helped us to get over the line,” said former national team coach Connie Wong.
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“We need that support again tomorrow against Zimbabwe whom we believe we can beat if we stay calm and stick to our game plan for 60 minutes.”
The goal for Hong Kong at the moment is next year’s Asian Netball Championship, which is set to offer the top two finishers qualification for the World Cup, previously known as the world championships.
“It will be exciting to see how today’s game influences our world ranking,” said Hong Kong co-captain Anna Pinder.
“Malaysia are currently ranked 19th and Zimbabwe 17th and Hong Kong are 26th. It is especially exciting to have another shot at Zimbabwe tomorrow.”