In the 12th place playoff at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town, Fiji displayed a spirited performance, claiming a convincing 71-39 victory against Trinidad and Tobago. With this win, Fiji improved on their previous World Cup appearance in Liverpool four years ago, where they finished 14th.
Right from the start, the Fiji Pearls showed great hunger and rhythm on the court, quickly pulling away from the Calypso Girls, who appeared to lack energy. Within the first five minutes of the match, Fiji took a 5-1 lead.
Fiji’s defenders applied immense pressure to force turnovers, enabling them to capitalize on every opportunity and extend their lead. Although Trinidad and Tobago coach Joel Young-Strong brought on captain Shaquanda Greene-Noel as a goalkeeper, Fiji continued to dominate, heading into the first break with a 17-8 lead.
In the second quarter, Unaisi Rauluni’s impressive shooting, averaging 91 percent, helped Fiji amass a 34-15 advantage at halftime.
Trinidad and Tobago put up a stronger fight in the third quarter, and Fiji’s numerous changes disrupted their rhythm slightly. However, Fiji’s early dominance had already secured them a 21-goal lead going into the final period.
Fiji regained their fluidity when Maliana Rusivakula rejoined Rauluni in the circle, and the duo extended the Pearls’ lead further. Coach Unaisi Rokoura continued to make substitutions in the final minutes, but Fiji maintained their pace, sealing a 71-37 victory and securing 12th place overall.
After the match, Fiji captain Maria Lutua-Rusivakula expressed elation and praised her young squad for their progress since the last World Cup. “We wanted to finish off on a high. We’ve worked hard and worked strong and wanted to go out with a win so we came out hungry and we said we’re not going to go home without a win, so I think the girls showed that on court today.”
Trinidad and Tobago coach Joel Young-Strong acknowledged her players’ fatigue but credited Fiji for their hunger and excellent performance. “They really are tired but they should have been doing better than this because we were trained a certain way that when this time at the end comes, we need to step it up. But I think they were also tired mentally,” she said.
“Fiji were hungry. My hats off to Fiji today. We played them in a warm-up and they looked really, really good so we anticipated some great pace, tactics, and connections from them, but we failed. It’s alright, it’s all good. We’re going to build from here and come back next time stronger, better, and fitter.”
Q2: 34-15 (17-7)
Q3: 49-28 (15-13)
Q4: 71-37 (22-9)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Unaisi Rauluni (Fiji)