Belfast Telegraph

Loss to Kiwis adds focus for a first win at the Games

By Richards Bullick

Defiant Northern Ireland scored four of the last five goals to keep defending Commonwealth champions New Zealand's victory margin to under 50 at the SECC last night.

The 78-29 defeat was Northern Ireland's third from three at Glasgow 2014 but they have high hopes of securing their first ever Games victory this evening against St Lucia.

The girls in green began brightly against a New Zealand side currently ranked first in the world and the hot favourites even called a tactical timeout with the upstarts leading 6-5.

But by the end of the opening quarter the natural order had been restored with the Kiwis ahead 19-8 and already on their way to the expected comprehensive victory.

Northern Ireland captain Hannah Willis was withdrawn before half-time with Lisa McCaffrey coming on and ace centre Caroline O'Hanlon briefly switching to wing attack.

It was 40-15 at the halfway point of the game but Northern Ireland started strongly in the third quarter, with O'Hanlon back at centre and the impressive McCaffrey moving forward a place.

The underdogs did well in defence too with a surprisingly sloppy New Zealand also bearing some responsibility for the Kiwis only netting twice in the first four minutes.

Yet for all Northern Ireland's enterprising play, with O'Hanlon being particularly lively, their opponents outscored them 17-6 in the penultimate period to lead 57-21.

Lisa Somerville came on as chief shooter and even managed to net an impressive seven goals from eight attempts as Northern Ireland finished strongly to boost their spirits ahead of today's crunch clash.

Kate Carpenter's team need to beat St Lucia, ranked one place below them, and hosts Scotland on Wednesday to emulate their top eight finish at the 2011 World Cup.

NORTHERN IRELAND: G Gibney, M Masters, F Toner, C O'Hanlon, H Willis (capt), O McCullough, N Lennon. Subs: L McCaffrey for Willis, L Somerville for Masters, N Cooper for Toner.

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