Samoa and the Cook Islands picked up opening victories as the Oceania Qualifier for next year’s Netball World Cup got underway in Auckland.
Samoa have taken part in every Netball World Cup - or Championships - since 1987, and they made a strong statement of their intent to secure one of the two qualifying places for next year’s big event in Liverpool as they beat Tonga 56-41.
The young Samoan team, whose players are based in two of the sport’s powerhouses, Australia and New Zealand, took a 17-9 quarter-time lead at the HighWire Trust venue in Papakura.
By half-time the lead had been extended to 33-19.
Tonga, who have never qualified for a Netball World Cup, will play the fifth team involved in these qualiifiers, Fiji, tomorrow, while Samoa take on a Papua New Guinea side that was involved in a far more competitive match today, eventually losing 54-51 to the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands, who recently moved to 17th in the International Netball Federation World Rankings, have not qualified for a World Cup since 2007 when the competition took place in Auckland.
They were pushed all the way by Papua New Guinea who only trailed by two at half time.
The Cook Islands started to pull away in the third quarter and led by six going into the final stanza.
Papua New Guinea cut the deficit to three but ran out of time to complete the comeback.
The last time Papua New Guinea were at a World Cup it was in Birmingham 1995, which was also the last time the World Cup was held in England.
Meanwhile Fiji, top-ranked team in the qualifier at 12th in the world lists, will hope the extra day of rest will have helped them recover from their recent exertions at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.