Over a week has passed since the European World Cup Qualifiers and what a tournament it was for the Welsh Feathers. The Welsh Feathers secured their place in the 2023 Netball World Cup in style by being the only unbeaten team in the competition.
Match 1 – WAL vs IOM
The Feathers campaign started on Wednesday 12th October against the Isle of Man in the Emirates Arena (Glasgow). From the first whistle, the Feathers showed their intent and were dominant in defence. Tips and intercepts from Christina Shaw, Ella Powell-Davies and Nia Jones allowed Wales to get an early lead which resulted in the first quarter finishing Wales 19, 7 Isle of Man.
The second quarter started with the same intent as the first. The movement from Georgia Rowe and Phillipa Yarranton and the pin-point feeds from Bethan Dyke and Suzy Drane were unstoppable. Changes were made in the second quarter, and despite the changes, Wales looked as clinical as before, and added more goals to the score. The Feathers on court continue to work together to turn over ball and ended up leading 40 – 11 at half time.
To start the third quarter more changes were made meaning that all twelve players took to the court in the first match of the tournament. The defensive pressure across the court did not lessen. The Welsh defenders continued to turn over ball whilst the shooters continued to get the balls in the net. As the score line continually increased, the Welsh Feathers made more changes. Even with the changes, Wales had a 19 – 6 quarter which meant they went into the final quarter leading 51 – 17.
The speed of the ball and the passage of play from defence to attack from the Welsh Feathers was smooth at the start of the quarter four. The Welsh Feathers persisted in executing the basics in their first match of the tournament. They were patient with the ball, slick in attack and kept the pressure on in defence continually for 60 minutes. They finished just as they started, with pace and dominance and won the match 78 – 22.
Match 2 – WAL vs GIB
Wales versus Gibraltar was the first match of day two, and it did not disappoint. The Welsh Feathers continued to build on the momentum from the first match, and from the start of match two dominated the court. The first quarter showcased a fantastic defensive display from the Welsh Feathers. Wales started the game strong and got a 13 – 1 lead with 8 minutes to go in the first quarter. The defenders turned over ball and the transition from defence to attack was slick. Even when Gibraltar put the defensive pressure on, Wales remained calm and continued to produce pin-point feeds to Georgia Rowe who held strong in the circle. The Welsh Feathers had a massive first quarter and the scores after 15 minutes were 28 – 3.
Gibraltar came out firing in the second quarter, but Wales held strong and continued to execute spectacular passages of play. Even when Gibraltar managed to take a rebound, the defensive pressure from Georgia Rowe at Goal Shooter to Christina Shaw at Goal Keeper was huge and ended up being turned over by the Welsh Feathers in their shooting third. Wales remained clinical and after a magnificent intercept from Nia Jones, the half finished 51 – 8 to Wales.
Both teams had made numerous changes going into the third quarter, but the intensity and speed remained the same. Phillipa Yarranton was certainly a play maker in this match, the movement off the ball created space for her to either feed Sarie Watkins or go to goal herself. The defenders continued to hustle and get ball for their attackers and the Welsh Feathers impressively added another twenty-three goals, with a quarter time score of 74 – 12.
The final quarter showed more of the same with the Welsh Feathers adding even more goals to their already notable score. A full team defensive effort, patience on the ball and pin-point feeds added another twenty-one goals to Wales’s score which saw them take the win and produce the highest score of the competition. The match ended Wales 95 – 19 Gibraltar.
Match 3 – ROI vs WAL
Wales managed to get the first two goals on the board, but Ireland didn’t let the Welsh Feathers have it easy. Both teams applied constant pressure throughout the court, forcing mistakes including held balls and handling errors. The game went goal-for-goal for most of the first quarter and Wales were tested, but the Welsh Feathers started to pull away giving them the lead going into the second quarter (6-13).
The Welsh Feathers had settled into the game after a difficult start and were starting to find Georgia Rowe easier than in the first quarter. The pressure stepped up in defence and The Emeralds were finding it harder to get the ball into their shooters. The Welsh Feathers got the second quarter off to a blistering start, scoring ten goals before Ireland got their first of the quarter. Full team defence featured again with Georgia Rowe picking up a tip and finishing off her good work with a goal. Georgia Rowe got a heavy knock towards the end of the quarter, but after getting checked, she got up and played even stronger than she did before. The half time whistle blew, and the scores were 8 – 34 after a big defensive effort.
The Welsh Feathers continued the momentum from the second quarter. Nia Jones commanded the centre court both physically and vocally. Nia continually demanded more from her team, and they delivered, working hard to get tips and intercepts, and forcing The Emeralds to make errors. Wales seemed on track to getting their third win out of three matches going into the last quarter leading 14 – 55.
Despite the fight from The Republic of Ireland, Wales remained strong. The transition from defence to attack again was speedy and accurate, allowing Wales to get the ball to the shooters with ease. Another full squad performance with all twelve squad members stepping up when needed secured the Welsh Feathers their third win of the competition with all to play and qualification in sight. The match finished 23 – 75 to the Welsh Feathers.
Match 4 – WAL vs NIR
With this match potentially securing the Welsh Feathers’s qualification for the 2023 Netball World Cup, it was all to play for. Wales showed their intent from the first whistle by putting pressure on every ball. The Welsh Feathers dominated in attack and defence and within the first five minutes got an early 7 – 1 lead. The partnership of Christina Shaw and Ella Powell-Davies in the circle made it hard for The Warriors to get the ball into the circle. The hard work and effort paid off with tips, intercepts and umpire calls going in their favour. A confident start from Wales gave them a 12-goal advantage going into the second quarter with a score of 18 – 6.
Despite the defensive pressure being lifted by Northern Ireland, Wales remained patient with the ball and maintained possession of the ball. By the beginning of the second quarter, Bethan Dyke already had her third opponent against her and continued to dominate. Her speed, strength, and use of the ball …. The Welsh Feathers accumulated a handy lead of 33 – 14 going into the second half.
Wales were determined to get their fourth win of the competition with an all-round strong performance, and they certainly delivered in the third quarter. The Welsh Feathers did not release any pressure both in attack and defence and the movement in the shooting circle created plenty of space for the midcourters to feed into. With a 16 – 10 quarter, Wales were determined to finish strong. The scores at the end of the third quarter were 49 – 24 and Wales had 15 minutes left to seal their World Cup Qualification invitation.
Again, the Welsh Feathers continued to push The Emeralds until the final whistle. With all the attackers working together, Nia Jones managed to find a slither of space and produced a great feed from the centre third to Georgia Rowe under the post. Wales made changes half-way through the fourth quarter and the substitutions saw all twelve players take to court once again. The Welsh Feathers received well-deserved hugs and high-fives from the bench and could rest after an impressive performance. With a final score of 60 – 34 to the Wales, the Welsh Feathers sealed their qualification invitation from World Netball for the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa. With Wales and Scotland being the only two teams who remained unbeaten going into the last day of the competition, the final match would not be one to miss.
Match 5 –SCO vs WAL
The final match of the World Cup Qualifiers was set to be huge. With both teams qualifying for the Netball World Cup, this was the battle for pride. There were battles throughout the court like Nia Jones against Iona Christian and Bethan Dyke against Claire Maxwell and they did not disappoint. The match went goal-for-goal throughout the first quarter with both teams giving their all. The Welsh Feathers managed to put on a formidable team defence to force the Thistles to make errors which allowed Wales to gain a slight advantage going into the second quarter (Scotland 13 – 17 Wales).
Wales started the second quarter the stronger team with Nia Jones followed by Ella Powell-Davies making the first intercepts of the quarter. This allowed the Welsh Feathers to move slightly further away from the Scottish Thistles on the scoreboard. Wales had worked hard to get a lead and were determined not to let Scotland come back. The Welsh Feathers went into the half time break leading 31 – 26.
The third quarter was not the start Wales were looking for. Scotland increased the pressure and managed to get the scores back to level (33-33) with 8 minutes remaining. Again, in this match as she has shown all tournament, Bethan Dyke used her speed, athleticism, and accuracy of feeds to Wales’s advantage and proving that she is one of the best Wing Attacks in the world. The Welsh Feathers got back into their flow and started to break away from Scotland once again. Wales managed to get a three-goal lead heading into the final 15 minutes of the tournament.
Despite the comeback from Scotland, Wales the Welsh Feathers stayed strong and played their own game. They held their own as they had done throughout the match and started to get more of a lead heading into the final five minutes of the match. Georgia Rowe not only moved well and held strongly in the circle, she also shot accurately throughout the match against Scotland and finished the match at 100% shooting accuracy. Even though both teams had played five matches in five days, no body looked tired. The intensity stayed at the same level as the World Cup Qualifiers started as both teams fought to remain unbeaten. Eventually, the full-time whistle blew, and Wales were victorious. The game ended Scotland 51 – 58 Wales, and the Welsh Feathers finished the Netball World Cup Qualifiers – Europe unbeaten and on top.
After five tough days, the competition had ended. Wales Netball are proud to say that the Welsh Feathers have Qualified for the Netball World Cup and are going to be on the flight to Cape Town in 2023. Despite having five tough games in five days, the squad did not skip a beat and they fought until the end.
A huge thank you goes out to the staff, partners, and supporters, and an extra special thank you goes out to the Welsh Feathers parents. We saw and heard you at every game during the World Cup Qualifiers, and the support was immense!
After not qualifying for the last World Cup, the Welsh Feathers were determined to right the wrongs of the last tournament and they did it in style. A massive kudos goes out to everyone involved over the past four years to get the Welsh Feathers in the position they are in now.
A massive congratulations to the Welsh Feathers Squad and Management Team for finishing on top and qualifying for the 2023 Netball World Cup.
See you in Cape Town!