The Australian Diamonds finished the preliminary rounds of the World Cup on top of Pool A after a convincing win over Sri Lanka.
Yet it was an untidy outing for the Diamonds who conceded 7 turnovers and gave up 15 penalties during the first half.
The connection between starting goalers, Steph Wood and Caitlin Thwaites, was not on during the early stages of the first half with three balls pitched over the baseline due to ill-feeds or miscommunication. Fortunately for them, when their passes hit the mark and were then converted 100% of the time.
All too often Kelsey Browne was caught flat-footed and behind her much taller opponent, Deepika Abeykoon. The usually dexterous wing attack was running too laterally, which saw her crowd the space around the top of the circle.
The only sparkling Diamonds on the court during the first half were April Brandley and Sarah Klau whose communication and teamwork were on pointe. While the duo still have some work to do, their interplay was a joy to watch, with the two seamlessly switching to cover the other’s opponent and their backup play fluid.
Speaking after the match, April Brandley had high praise for her protégé. “She is doing such a great job out there it is actually making my job easier. Sarah has the good vision and ability to see when the goal attack has just got past my shoulder and I see this yellow dress come and I know I only need to head back to the circle. It is working well so hopefully, it will continue to build.”
The Diamonds came out after half time with renewed determination. Speaking after the game, Diamonds coach, Lisa Alexander said nerves may have played a part. “I think they looked a little nervous out there for a little bit. Then once they relaxed into it they were fine.”
Paige Hadley was injected into the game, at wing defence after half time and applied her hard tagging style of defence. Her ability to shut down Sri Lankan wing attack Gayani Dissanayake forced misplaced feeds and held balls.
The Diamonds full-court defensive efforts in the fourth quarter strangled Sri Lanka through the midcourt, keeping them to only 2 goals for the term.
Meanwhile, the Diamond’s front line had settled with Liz Watson and Browne hitting circle edge easy and applying swift, pint point accurate passes which were rewarded with near perfect goal shooting.
The loss places Sri Lanka into the bottom 8of the competition. They will need to regroup and find their connections if they hope to overcome Singapore, Samo and Fiji in the next stage.
Australia advances safely to the second stage where they will meet, New Zealand, Malawi and Barbados. Looking ahead Alexander acknowledges that having a break before her side meet’s New Zealand is a double-edged sword. “It is a strange one because in some respects you don’t really want to. But we will be grateful for the day off because we need a mental break. But we will probably do some performance analysis before the game because it will be a big one. But we need to get through Barbados and Malawi first because we have got to get used to that African style with Malawi. We played Barbados last year but we will need to trial a bit more offline, split circle type of defence on them.”
Caitlin Thwaites GS, Steph Wood GA, Kelsey Browne WA, Liz Watson C, Jamie-Lee Price WD, April Brandley WD, Sarah Klau GK
Bench – Caitlin Bassett, Courtney Bruce, Paige Hadley, Gretel Tippett, Jo Weston
Elilenthinie Sethukavalar GS, Hasitha Mendis GA, Thilini Waththegedera WA, Gayanjali Amarawansa C, Nauchalee Rajapakse WD, Dharshika Abeywickrema GD, Chathurangi Jayasooriya GK
Bench – Deepika Abeykoon, Dulanga Ambeygoda, Gayani Dissanayake, Tharjini Sivalingam, Dulangi Wannithileka
Caitlin Thwaites 67/68 99%
Steph Wood 32/34. 94%
Dulangi Wannithileka 8/10. 80%
Tharjini Sivalingam 16/19 84.2%
Hasitha Mendis 0/2
Kelsey Browne (Australia) 48
Liz Watson (Australia) 41
Gayanjali Amarawansa (Sri Lanka) 30
April Brandley (Australia) 4
Kelsey Browne (Australia) 2
Paige Hadley (Australia) 2