Singapore netballers lose narrowly to top-ranked Samoa
For a moment, it looked like a fightback was on the cards, but Singapore's hopes for a fourth straight win - a third over higher-ranked opponents - in the 2014 Nations Cup was dashed in the end.
Ranked 19th in the world standings, the Republic's women netballers fell 47-53 to world No. 14 Samoa - the top-ranked side at the tourney - at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
Ruth Aiken's charges cut a 12-point half-time deficit to just three after a solid third-quarter performance that saw them outscore the Samoans 13-8.
But the Pacific Islanders stepped up a gear in the final period to put the finishing touches on their fourth straight win in the six-nation tournament.
"Singapore pushed us to the limits tonight and were close to taking the win," said Samoa captain Sanita To'o, paying tribute to the reigning Asian champions.
"But we got a few key goals at the end to give us the win. It was down to our mental toughness tonight that we got the result."
Samoa's goal shooter Monica Fuimaono asserted herself in the circle in the first half of the game watched by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth.
While a tactical switch in their defensive positions - bringing Chen Li Li in as goalkeeper beside Lin Qingyi (goal defence) and moving Premila Hirubalan from mid-court into wing defence - appeared to work, the Republic's netballers came up just short at the end.
"It's not a bad defeat, it was very close. We started very strong in the fourth quarter as well and we thought we could win it," said Premila, pointing to the team's fighting spirit.
"Fuimaona was big, tough and strong and has been around for a while, even when I was younger; she is very mobile for a tall player but, once Li Li came on, we could play our own game more."
In yesterday's other matches, Botswana beat Malaysia 51-36, while Papua New Guinea (PNG) ran out 66-33 winners over Ireland.
Despite the loss to Samoa, Singapore still sit second in the standings ahead of today's rest day, and a win over Causeway rivals Malaysia tomorrow will secure a spot in Saturday's final.
The other matches scheduled for tomorrow are Samoa versus Ireland and Botswana versus PNG.
If Aiken's women get the job done, they will once again face Samoa, who have already sealed their place in the final.
After taking a close-up look at the Samoans, Premila said more attention must be paid to Fuimaono, should Singapore make the final.
She said: "We have to go back to the drawing board on how to handle her (Fuimaono) if we play them on Saturday."