Malawi Queens cause biggest upset in Commonwealth Games history

Malawi Queens cause biggest upset in Commonwealth Games history

By |2018-04-09T01:58:03+10:00April 9th, 2018|Categories: Commonwealth Games 2018, NZ, World|3 Comments

GK Loreen Ngwira
GD Towera Vinkhumbo
WD Joanna Kachilika
C Takondwa Lwazi
WA Bridget Kumwenda
GA Jane Chimaliro
GS Mwai Kumwenda

New Zealand
GK Temalisi Fakahokotau
GD Katrina Grant
WD Claire Kersten
C Samantha Sinclair
WA Grace Kara
GA Maria Folau
GS Ta Paea Selby-Rickit

Malawi has beaten New Zealand in the biggest upset in Commonwealth Games netball history.

This is the first time the Malawi Queens have beaten the Silver Ferns. The victory came through accurate shooting, keeping possession of the ball, superior rebounding and full-court pressure on an inconsistent New Zealand.

The Silver Ferns shot at 76 per cent accuracy, but the most telling statistic was their inability to rebound. Malawi snatched 14 rebounds – eight of those by shooters Mwai Kumwenda and Jane Chimaliro. The Silver Ferns defenders failed to take a single rebound.

New Zealand started with what may be their strongest line-up and steadily took a five goal lead early in the quarter. Malawi continued a run of slow starts at the tournament, committing six turnovers. They settled half-way through the first quarter, but faced a seven goal deficit at quarter time.

The teams played an even second quarter, New Zealand maintaining the seven goal lead at half time. Samantha Sinclair took a heavy fall, hitting the back of her head on the floor. She continued the quarter but sat on the bench for the second half, possibly as a concussion precaution. Her strength at C may have made a difference in the desperate final quarter.

With the game seemingly in hand, New Zealand made four changes at half-time. Youngsters Kelly Jury and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson combined in the circle, while coach Janine Southby made the 3rd of six changes to her shooting circle.

Jury attempted to disrupt Kumwenda’s dominance in the air, but Malawi changed tactics and used the same play continually in the second half.

Kumwenda burnt Jury for speed by coming out of the circle to receive second phase ball, then passed cross-court, using a number of short passes before lobbing to Kumwenda or feeding Chimaliro in front space. New Zealand either failed to recognise the play or were unable to reach the unusually wide cross-court ball.

When entry to the circle didn’t appear straight away, the Queens used their trademark fearless “keepings-off” game, sometimes passing backwards half the length of the court to reset. It was heart-in-mouth stuff, but New Zealand were only able to intercept three times in the second half.

New Zealand extended their lead to 10 goals in the third quarter, but in the final ten minutes Malawi piled on 14 goals to New Zealand’s three. Crucial intercepts and rebounds to Loreen Ngwira and Towera Vinkhumbo closed the gap, and the Silver Ferns made a series of passing errors and missed shots to hand the lead to Malawi at the final break.

Southby made six changes at three-quarter time and a further two changes in the final minutes, but her players couldn’t take control of the game. New Zealand continued to miss shots and Malawi extended the lead to five goals.

The crowd was in full voice, witnessing history being made. Malawi maintained control for the dying minutes with clutch shooting, and celebrations finally erupted all over the stadium.

The Silver Ferns’ destiny is still in their own hands if they can beat England on Wednesday. If New Zealand lose to England, their chance to be in contention for a medal will likely depend on having a superior percentage to Uganda and Malawi.

Malawi’s loss to Uganda on day 3 may be New Zealand’s saving grace.

Malawi 57 def New Zealand 53

Kumwenda 41/46 89%
Chimaliro 16/20 80%
57/66 86%

New Zealand
Folau 31/39 79%
Selby-Rickit 15/17 88%
Mes 7/12 58%
Ekenasio 0/2 0%
53/70 76%


Janine Southby, New Zealand coach
“Pretty gutted. It’s one of those things that you never want to do. We’re really disappointed in the product we put out there today and we got punished for it.”

Where it went wrong
“In a number of areas. We were guilty of not really punishing them when we had that lead just before half time and letting them back into it. And in the third quarter we just took the foot off and didn’t do our jobs. We weren’t available on attack at times, we made it hard for ourselves, we didn’t do the rebounding we have been doing, particularly in the attacking end, and we didn’t get enough gains on defence.”

How do you deal with the Malawi ‘keepings-off’ style of game
“You’ve got to try and attack it. The girls were trying really hard and we just didn’t get the rub of the green at times and that’s really frustrating. It’s not ideal, certainly not what we’ve planned and what we prepared to do. But we’ve got to pick ourselves up, it’s a tournament and you’ve got to keep going.”

What this means for their Games campaign
“I don’t think it’s over, we’ve got another two games in our pool and that’s what we’ve got to focus on, one game at a time. That’s all we can do. And it’s take the learnings from today, pick ourselves up and go again.”

“I think that we’ve still got to show that we really want it. We’ll have a look at it, but particularly that third quarter we went into hiding a little bit in attack and we didn’t show that we really wanted it. You can question the changes, you can question lots of things, but the reality for us is that it’s worked over the last couple of games, and that’s what’s been working for us. It’s a tournament and you’ve got to have all players being able to do what they can do.”

Did they panic?
“I thought they weren’t at the start of it, but it gradually crept back in and that’s what we’ve got to be stronger and tougher than that and actually stay connected and do what we’re supposed to do out there. I back the girls to pick themselves up again and I know they won’t be happy with what they put out there, but it’s about picking themselves up and going for it.”

Malawi coaching staff Whyte Mulilima (right) and Griffin Saenda (left).

Whyte Mulilima, Malawi coach
“We have broken a record. We have never beaten them in seven a side netball. This is the first of its’ kind. I’m thankful to my God, he has made me great. I have made history in the world. I’m very thankful to the players. They have put in the effort, and that is why we won. The moment they played as a team, that has never happened.”

“We knew New Zealand’s system, we knew how to beat them. When we give them too much pressure they don’t play as a team. We wanted to play them one-on-one. We didn’t want our players to do long passes (in the last quarter). We’re shouting at them, “No long passes, nice and easy!” And this is exactly what we have done. We have managed to beat them. It was a tough game, because we are coming from behind. I have a problem with my players, that when we lose concentration in the first quarter, we lose our touch, and we don’t concentrate too much.”

On holding the lead in the last quarter
“Our players, we just told them to do the right things, don’t be in a hurry, just play your game. The results will come. But if you force matters, New Zealand will rise and score more. ‘Take your time, be composed, play your game until you reach our destination.’ So this is what has happened.”

On potentially pushing New Zealand out of the top four
“New Zealand – it is my God that has given me the strength and wisdom to be able to read New Zealand and beat their system. So I am thankful to my Lord, I’m thankful to my players, I’m thankful to all of you for your support.”

The reaction to the win by family and supporters in Malawi
“Everybody will be shocked because they never expected us to win against New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the highly rated teams in the world – it should be number one or two. That is why I am so grateful and excited. It gives us great morale and confidence.”

Shannon Francois, New Zealand
“In the second half we really struggled to get ball in defence, and then we weren’t treasuring it when we did, throwing some careless ball away in attack. Under pressure we need to score off our ball and be patient.”

Jane Chimaliro, Malawi
“That was very tough, but we tried our best, and as I told you yesterday, we are going to focus on the games that are coming. So you have seen that performance today! For New Zealand today we said ‘girls, let’s focus, let’s fight hard!’ You know it’s our first time to beat New Zealand, so I’m excited, I’m so happy!”

How they reduced their turnovers in the second half
“It’s because we are playing under pressure that first quarter. We said ‘girls let’s focus, let’s play our game’. That’s why you see a change there, we played well and won this game.”

“Towera is a good defender, and she drives very well. Takondwa, it’s true she’s inspirational, she’s very good, and able to run, she’s very quick!”

“I’m speechless! I’m so excited! We will celebrate by just going to the dressing room and start dancing – you know we Malawians love dancing, so we are going there to dance!”

Takondwa Lwazi, Malawi
“I’m so happy because losing yesterday to Uganda, it was painful, because Uganda have never beaten us before. So today we discussed that we should keep fighting so that we can win. Our secret was our fighting spirit, encouraging each other on the ground, not give up.”

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About the Author:

Elite netballer trapped in the body of a very average one.


  1. Portia Vann April 9, 2018 at 5:08 am

    Love the comments from Chimaliro and Lwazi!

  2. Allie Collyer April 9, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Fantastic write-up Lou. The atmosphere in the stadium must have been incredible. I was on the edge of my seat at home willing Malawi home.

    Brilliant photos from Marcela capturing the game and the joyful celebrations afterwards.

  3. Pardalote April 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I chose not to go to these CWGs but now I am SERIOUSLY jealous of you lot. It would have been a wonderful game to be at.

    “We knew New Zealand’s system, we knew how to beat them. When we give them too much pressure they don’t play as a team’

    is probably a fair statement about the current Ferns team

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