Netball World Cup 2019: NI progress despite defeat by Zimbabwe
|2019 Netball World Cup on the BBC|
|Venue: Liverpool Arena Dates: 12-21 July|
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Northern Ireland reached the second stage of the Netball World Cup despite losing 51-49 against Zimbabwe.
Dan Ryan's side held a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter but it was level at half-time and going into the final quarter before the Gems snatched it.
Northern Ireland still finished in the top three to progress, with Sri Lanka bottom after their defeat by Australia.
Zimbabwe's win meant they took second place behind the defending champions.
The African side are playing in their first World Cup and finished the preliminary round with two victories from three matches.
"I can't express myself. I'm overwhelmed," said Zimbabwe coach Lloyd Makunde.
"It was built on teamwork and teamwork really prevailed today. We are ready to take on anyone and we will get as far as we possibly can."
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Shooting accuracy proved to be the difference between the sides, with Zimbabwe at 96% compared with 79% for Northern Ireland.
"A gutting way to finish the game but in terms of the spectacle and quality of netball it was a great game to be a part of," Ryan told Sky Sports.
"There's a lesson to learn in trust. It's what the World Cup is all about. Our players stopped trusting in each other.
"You lose faith in your team-mate and that's so important. It's a hard pill to swallow.
"I'm incredibly disappointed. I think we should have won that game."
Northern Ireland start Group F against Malawi on Monday with New Zealand their opponents a day later and then Barbados on Thursday.
Zim Gems prevail in final quarter
The back-and-forth nature of an absorbing contest continued deep into the final quarter, with Zimbabwe getting themselves just in front as the closing minutes approached.
With five minutes to go, Joice Takaidza took their lead back out to two, and followed that up with a fantastic one-handed take and composed finish to ensure that the pressure mounted on Northern Ireland.
Emma Magee responded by drawing the Warriors level at 49-49, but they couldn't capitalise on having the next centre pass, giving away a contact foul for as they approached the Zimbabwean circle.
Both teams then traded errors as the atmosphere reached fever pitch, and a fumble by the Northern Irish attackers proved crucial as Zimbabwe re-took the lead through Ursula Ndlovu with 80 seconds left.
Fittingly, it was Takaidza who then all-but ended the contest, putting her side 51-49 ahead - a lead which they held on to for the 55 seconds which remained, to claim a famous win.
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