Brunei Darussalam’s netball team closed the gap in terms of the margin of defeat against defending champions Malaysia after they lost 64-40 in the semi-finals at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games at the Santa Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna, Philippines yesterday.
The Royal Bees led by team captain Her Royal Highness Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah secured the bronze medal for the third consecutive edition following successes in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Brunei mirrored a display which saw them lead regional giants Singapore in the first quarter of the preliminary round, in what could only be seen as a sign of progress.
Drawing on the positives, the result signified an improvement for Brunei as they plundered 40 goals against the regional giants for the first time in the SEA Games. The margin of defeat was the narrowest since their rivalry started in 2015.
Results against Malaysia have not been kind to Brunei during previous editions in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in the preliminary round and knock-out stages.
Brunei’s previous losses against Malaysia, who are gunning for a second successive title, reads 69-23, 70-28, 64-27, 79-23 and 82-24.
This year, Brunei enjoyed a spell which saw them match Singapore in the first quarter, opening up a real possibility that they could emulate their heroics of penetrating the Malaysian defence.
The Royal Bees only trailed the Asian heavyweights by four points in the first quarter with the score reading 17-13. More encouragingly, the gap in the remaining three quarters was not as distant as previous battles.
By comparison, Brunei only managed a combined haul of 14 points in the first quarter in 2015 and 2017 with the latter saw them chalk just four points on the board.
Meanwhile in the other semi-final, Thailand lost 61-31 to Singapore. Fierce rivals in both the regional and continental scenes, Malaysia and Singapore will contest the gold medal match in a repeat of the 2015 and 2017 final.
It is the first time that both countries will lock horns on a neutral ground as Malaysia hosted the competition in 2001 and 2017 while Singapore was the hosts in 2015.
Malaysia defeated Singapore, who played in the World Cup in Liverpool, United Kingdom earlier this year, in the previous edition 65-41 at the Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara.