Tifa Moana took a tough 52-69 loss out on the court against Tonga Tala for their first game at the Vodafone Netball World Cup Qualifiers in Fiji.
Tifa Moana was led onto the Court by debut captain Ainsleyana Puleiata, who dressed up in full taupou attire for the opening ceremony.
Samoa’s veteran national netball star Eseta Autagavaia assisted as vice captain. Together they played crucial roles in leading the girls through a well-fought match that was closer than the final score suggests.
Tifa Moana started the game off with a strong attack from the GS/GA power duo, vice captain Eseta Autagavaia and Savior Tui who played an excellent debut.
Good ball movement around the mid court allowed Tifa Moana to create an early lead which was maintained by the solid defense of Melissa Oloamanu whose iconic interceptions interrupted the Tongan attack.
Samoa led 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Samoa did come back in the second quarter with more energy as veteran center Solia Ropati’s ball control switched the pace of the game up to disrupt a frustrated Tongan defense. But it wasn’t long until Tonga was able to regroup and bounce back, taking advantage of Tifa Moana’s own defensive weaknesses.
Tonga led by 32-27 at half time.
Tonga Tala came back to domimate in the second half, with a more physical and explosive approach which seemed to continuously pierce through the Samoan defence.
Tonga led by 50-36 at the end of the third quarter and extended their lead even further for a full time score of 69-52.
“A tough start but we stay positive, focused and regroup on the following games ahead,” Tifa Moana state on the team’s active social media pages.
Tifa Moana returns to the drawing board to reflect, refocus and prepare for the upcoming games against Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
In other matches on Day 1, Fiji Pearls secured a comfortable won over PNG Pepes 74 – 32.
The five nations are battling it out at the World Cup Qualifiers for two spots to compete in the Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa next year.
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