| Fadhil Yunus |
BRUNEI Darussalam’s under-21 netball team matched their achievements from their previous participation four years ago in the Asian Youth Netball Championship (AYNC) after they finished in sixth place at Kashima, Japan recently.
The Bruneians fought valiantly in the 47-43 defeat to regional foes Thailand in the fifth place playoff to close the campaign in their return to the prestigious continental competition.
Jane Searle’s charges initially finished third in Group ‘B’ behind eventual winners Malaysia and Sri Lanka to earn a cross-over tie with Nepal whom they easily ran out 65-12 winners.
The fifth place playoff was marked by fervour and energy as both sides were determined to finish on a high, but it was Thailand who took a 13-10 lead.
The Royal Young Bees clawed their way back in the second quarter as either side refused to back down with the score in the second half reading 23-23.
Thailand edged the third quarter 34-33 which meant that it was all to play for in the final quarter, with the right to finish fifth best still in the balance.
The two Southeast Asian rivals were successful with every attack in the early stages of the fourth quarter but a run of four consecutive points swung the momentum in favour of the Thais.
Thailand opened a five-point lead with time running out before eventually finishing the tie with victory in a repeat of their final playoff game in Jeonju, South Korea in 2015.
Meanwhile, Malaysia emerged champions for a record sixth time after they exacted redemption against Causeway rivals Singapore 57-48 in a rematch of the 2017 final.
The Malaysians were significantly boosted with the inclusion of a host of players who already tasted experience in the senior team, which in the end proved to be the winning formula.
The defending champions grabbed a 16-13 lead in the first quarter but it was Malaysia’s clinical goal shooter Khairunnisa Nazri that changed the game after converting 45 out of 50 attempts.
Singapore took another lead at 34-33 midway through the third quarter but Malaysia finished strongly to win the match and regain the crown.
Sri Lanka finished a consolation third place after a 75-49 victory against Hong Kong, who had to settle for fourth place this time around, in a rematch at the same stage two years ago.
Taiwan, Nepal, India and Japan were the other teams that rounded off the top 10.