With the European World Cup Qualifiers fast approaching, it was great to host Uganda for two test series at House of Sport. It was the first time seeing the venue full of spectators, and it was amazing to see such a buzzing and electric atmosphere!
In the first test match, we saw the Welsh Feathers dominate early, gaining a three-goal lead within the first five minutes of the match. The match started with intent, and the pressure from both sides didn’t let-up throughout. Wales were slick in attack and dogged in defence. The Feathers put the pressure on the She Cranes in defence to force the errors to gain possession and used their speed and movement in attack to get the ball to Georgia Rowe and Phillipa Yarranton.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Wales managed to stretch their lead out and continued to build on the momentum from the first. The Ugandan captain Proscovia Peace made her way from goal shooter to goal keeper, and the battle between her and Georgia Rowe was intense. The She Cranes started to reduce the deficit, and the pressure continued to build from both sides. In an intense 30 minutes, the first half finished 26-26 and the crowd in House of Sport couldn’t wait for the second half to start.
Uganda got an early two-goal lead early in the third quarter, but Ella Powell-Davies didn’t let them get any further ahead. Ella grabbed an amazing intercept which gave the momentum back to the Welsh Feathers. The scores levelled once again with just over 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Uganda managed to build on their lead, but 3 an intercept from Clare Jones, pressure on the ball by Phillipa Yarranton, and a big intercept from Nia Jones pulled the scores closer to trail by two going into the final quarter of the first test match.
The last quarter finished the way the first quarter started; with high intensity and nothing between the two teams! Uganda managed to increase the score margin, but Margret Baagala was sent of for a challenge on Nia Jones. Uganda only had six people on the court for two minutes, and the Feathers were looking for the chances they need to level the scores. Uganda held their own, and the match finished Welsh Feathers 47, Ugandan She Cranes 56.
Mary Nuba Cholhok received the Player of the Match Award for Uganda for the first test, after coming onto court at goal shooter. In her 2nd International Test Match and first full 60-minute performance, Phillipa Yarranton dominated the goal attack position and received the Player of the Match Award for Wales. The first test match demonstrated some amazing displays of netball, and the anticipation for test two was growing.
In the second test, both teams struggled to get the ball into their own shooting circles, and it demonstrated how strong the defensive pressure was. Both teams settled and found their flow, but Uganda managed to get an early five-goal lead.
After a substitution for Mary Nuba Cholhok in the second quarter due to injury, Uganda extended their lead to six goals. There were battles all over the court with no players giving their opponent an inch of space. Sara Moore made a change in goal keeper, and brought Lucy Howells on for Christina Shaw to give the Ugandan shooters a different battle.
The Welsh Feathers were down by 7 goals going into the third quarter. Cholhok made an appearance back on court for Uganda and saw them back to their starting line-up for Sunday’s match. The Welsh Feathers had a great start to the second half and were feeding the ball to Georgia Rowe well. Ella Powell-Davies and Nia Jones contributed to the momentum shift with intercepts. After brining on Shona O’Dwyer, Georgia Rowe made way for young Sarie Watkins, who made her debut for the Welsh Feathers. Sarie officially became Welsh Feather 220 and did so whilst nailing her first shot.
The fourth quarter saw a step-up again in defensive pressure. Sarie Watkins showed great confidence for a 17-year-old in her international debut. The Welsh Feathers demonstrated the agility and speed of the squad by doing short and sharp passes from defensive turnovers into attack. Wales pressured Uganda until the last whistle, but the game finally ended Welsh Feathers 46, Ugandan She Cranes 64. Sandra Nambirgie collected the Player of the Match Award whilst Margret Baagala picked up the Player of the Series Award for Uganda. Bethan Dyke proved that she is a talent on court as she collected both the Player of the Match and Player of the Series Awards for Wales.
The series proved to be a great success! Congratulations to Uganda who won both test matches, and congratulations to Mary Nuba Cholhok, Sandra Nambirgie, Margret Baagala, Phillipa Yarranton, and Bethan Dyke for their Player of the Match, and Player of the Series performances. A huge congratulations to Sarie Watkins who made her Welsh Feathers debut in the second test match. Sarie made a great impact in the game, and we are excited to see and watch her career develop.
We would like to say a special thank you to our Partners, Staff, Volunteers, Lucy from Qtr Time Podcast, House of Sport, Uganda, S4C, and most importantly our fans for making this test series possible! We hope everyone enjoyed the new venue and we hope to see you all there soon!
Onto the World Cup Qualifiers!