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Campions take Europe Netball Open Challenge Division two title - Full report

Gibraltar’s netball Campions continued their successful campaign in Cardiff this weekend lifting the Europe Netball Open Challenge Division Two title with an unbeaten run.
After three straight victories in the group stage which saw them miss scoring 180 points in three matches by a solitary point the Campions were the firm favorites to take the title. Having been dealt a blow even before the tournament started by being placed in Division two although considered one of the top teams the Campions had something to prove.
Ranking points had played against them to see them just points below Malta who had played more matches internationally this season than they had. With the introduction of new teams into the competition Europe Netball this year decided to split the Open Challenge tournament into two division instead of playing a round robin tournament as has been seen in the past. This playing against Gibraltar.
The Campions were, however, to prove themselves on court. The only side to have fielded a fully homegrown side with no expats or foreign players recruited into their squads, Gibraltar’s mix of upcoming youth and experience was to prove far too strong for their opponents Switzerland, Israel and France.
With devastating efficiency and a confidence in court which was unrivalled throughout the tournament, the Campions breezed through the group stage. The play-offs proving themselves to be just as effective.
Fears that a rest day on Friday, plus the possibility of overconfidence creeping were put to one side as Gibraltar went on to repeat their success on court against Switzerland, and then France in the final.
For once Gibraltar’s only disappointment was in not having been able to repeat their 60 plus scorelines, dropping into the fifties in both matches, a feat which in itself left many wondering how Gibraltar had been lined up as a second division side.
There was further success for Gibraltar on court. Megan Ruiz, one of Gibraltar’s prolific shooters, receiving the Most Valuable Player award underlining Gibraltar’s development in the sport which has focused in bringing up through the ranks homegrown players, rather than seeking players from outside its homebase to strengthen its team. Something other squad playing in the tournament had done.
There was also success on the umpire’s front with Nadine Pardo-Zammitt once again among the umpires selected to umpire matches in the Europe Netball competitions. One of only 21 ITID umpires in the world, Nadine’s success further highlighting the extend of Gibraltar netball’s development programme which has extended from developing from grassroots levels across all its categories towards an elite player and officials pathway.
The success this weekend in Cardiff was highly praised across Gibraltar with Government ministers, sports associations and many others associated to sports and politics going onto social media to congratulate the Campions on their success.
Gibraltar netball hoping that the latest success will also prompt for greater support in the future, especially from much needed sponsors as the association continues to be the second largest in numbers participating in a sport yet still among the lowest funded locally.

Day 2 - Group matches
The Campions beat France 58-25 to make it three wins out of three

Gibraltar 58 - France 25
Game eleven of the Open Challenge saw Gibraltar come face to face with France.
After two sixty-plus point matches Gibraltar was looking to stamp their mark early on in their match against France going ahead 3-8 with six minutes of the first quarter gone.
Although not the runaway lead that Gibraltar had seen against Switzerland and Israel, the Campions pressed high and maintained their fast passing game. France, however, were much tighter in their defensive play than Gibraltar’s earlier opponents and did well to slow down Gibraltar’s quick movements across court to get their own footing on the game.
Starting to settle down in the latter part of the first quarter France reduced the deficit to four points at 5-9. Megan Ruiz, however, dealt an immediate confidence blow by scoring the tenth for Gibraltar. This just two minutes before the end of the first quarter.
France placed the pressure around the circle edge making it difficult for Gibraltar to find their way through. Not difficult enough though to prevent Gibraltar adding a further two points before the end of the first quarter.
Gibraltar had shown some initial nerves as they faced what was an unknown quantity for them having never faced France before.
However, settling into the match Gibraltar for the third time in the tournament lead in the first quarter and looked the strongest on the court.
Gibraltar’s experience on the international stage showed against newbies to Europe Netball ranks France. This at times marking the difference on court.
France maintained themselves in contention in the early part of the second half although still going further behind by 14-7 with still twelve minutes to play.
A very calm Megan Ruiz brought the nerves down as Gibraltar continued to increase their lead to 16-8 with ten minutes to half time. Pozo was to be replaced by Truman-Davies adding some inches to the offensive.
Gibraltar’s defence also doubling up on France’s shooters as they put pressure on the French limiting their opportunities.
Gibraltar slowly started to runaway with the lead Ruiz on top form as Gibraltar went 22-9 ahead with five minutes to halftime. France starting to the pressure as Gibraltar turned defence to attack to nudge further ahead 24-9.
Macquisten grabbing the rebounds well with herself and Gillingwater producing some important intercepts. France were forced to wait until the final three minutes of the second quarter before they added their tenth to the scoreboard. Gibraltar already though at 26-10.
From short quick passes to sweeping across the width of court long passes Gibraltar mixed and matched with confidence to set themselves to repeat their 30 point halftime target.
Gibraltar finishing the second quarter leading 29-11, just a point below that thirty point target. France, although falling behind providing a tougher opposition than Gibraltar had faced in their previous two matches. The French though lacking the international experience Gibraltar had in these tournaments and getting punished for it.
Joelle Moreno exchanged places with Janice Moreno as Gibraltar rested its players continuing to use a rotational system used in earlier matches to good effect.
The third quarter saw Gibraltar maintain their momentum going ahead 13-32 with three minutes gone.
Some excellent defending by Macquisten providing Gibraltar with a chance to limit France’s scoring opportunities and seeing defence turn to attack as Gibraltar went 13-36 ahead with nine minutes of the third quarter to go.
Gibraltar momentarily seemed to lose their focus with France getting a turnover and converting and Gibraltar failing at the centre pass and conceding before France had another turnover. France cutting the deficit to 16-36 before Gibraltar added to their tally.
Regaining their composure the match went to 17-38 but with a tighter game being played on court.
As Gibraltar hit the forty point mark Joelle Davis and Emma Torres got more minutes on court. This providing Gibraltar with an opportunity to rest players after what had been a gruelling second day of play, with three more days of intense play left. Whilst having little impact on Gibraltar’s lead. The Campions finishing with a 19-43 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Further changes in the fourth quarter saw Gibraltar’s strength across their squad come to the forefront as Courtney Ferrer came on. Ferrer another strong sharp shooter which France had to content with.
Amy Pozo and Courtney Ferrer taking Gibraltar to a 49-20 lead with ten minutes of the final quarter still to play.
Once again Gibraltar looking towards the sixty point scoreline although France were intent on making their own mark. Their chances dealt a blow after one of their players was sanctioned and saw them play temporarily with just six on the court.
With five minutes left Gibraltar led 53-22 but France were doing their best to stall Gibraltar’s progress. However, quick changes on court saw Gibraltar start flying away in the final two minutes some great work as a unit taking them to a 57-24 lead for the final minute.
The Campions once again stamped their mark with another close to sixty point match. France scoring the final point and denying Gibraltar reaching the sixty mark but seeing the Campions win by 58-25. In three matches the Campions scoring close to 180 points with three wins out of three.

For other match reports see
Campions beat Israel with another Sixty-plus points tally in Europe Netball Open Challenge day two
Gibraltar netball beats Switzerland 60-16

Gibraltar prove too strong for the Swiss for a second time

Gibraltar went into their play-off match against Switzerland with the confidence they had shown from the start of the tournament. Already after the first quarter Gibraltar were 14-4 ahead and looking strong. They were held by the Swiss in the early moments of the second quarter but soon started to score once again as they took control of the game with their fast paced game play. Megan Ruiz combining well with Truman-Davies as Gibraltar showed the scope and strength across its squad.
Switzerland struggled to find a pathway to increasing their score with just a point to their name in the quarter as Gibraltar’s defence proved to be as impenetrable and efficient as their shooters. A 26-5 scoreline not exactly what Gibraltar had wanted but very much in line with their aims to claim a place in the finals.
The third quarter started much in the same way as the other quarters Gibraltar making changes in its shooters with Courtney Ferrer coming in as Gibraltar continued to rotate its squad.
With victory very much in sight Gibraltar’s high pressure play proved a daunting task for the Swiss team who were unable to contain them. A 41-7 finish of the third quarter highlighting the full extend of Gibraltar’s dominance of the match. Again the Swiss reduced to just two points.
Switzerland were able to grab more points to their name in the final quarter as Gibraltar eased the paced but not enough to give too much of a respite to their opponents.
The Campions, looking to keep to their sixty point average which they had set in the group stage, would have left disappointed as they missed their target but only just. A 56-13 finish, with Megan Ruiz partnering Amy Pozo in the final quarter underlining Gibraltar’s superiority in the division.
The Campions setting themselves up for a final against France.

The final
Gibraltar win Division 2 Open Challenge title with convincing win against France

Gibraltar 53
France 20

It was to take Gibraltar just over two minutes to settle down their nerves as they faced France in the Division two Open Challenge finals. A determined French side, not wanting to see a repeat of the high score inflicted against them in their first encounter against Gibraltar putting in a strong start to try and stall Gibraltar.
However, it was Megan Ruiz with her calm composure which was to earn her the Most Valuebale Player award at the end of the tournament who set Gibraltar off on what was a triumphant final.
The first point was to see Gibraltar set the pace as they added the early points tally with no response from France, Gibraltar going up 7-0 before France was to score their first point with nine minutes of the first quarter to play.
The first quarter was to end with Gibraltar leading 15-4 and flying high in their Gibraltar Campion colours. The fast paced, quick movement of Gibraltar’s gameplay frustrating the French who had little response and were practically outplayed.
There was a determination and confidence in Gibraltar’s play as they asserted themselves on the court forcing France into mistakes, outjumping and out passing their opponents as Gibraltar kept demonstrating why they felt they were first division candidates and not second division as they had been ranked.
All credit to France, who although debuting in the tournament and making their way to the finals, whilst outplayed continued to show some grit on the court and did not give up even though Gibraltar was to end at half time with a 27-9 lead. Gibraltar once again meeting what had a regular points tally which had seen them getting within or close to the 30 point margin in every match played.
France were able to slow down Gibraltar’s progress in the third quarter although their own tally was also slowed down, with Gibraltar’s high pressure defence playing its role in Gibraltar’s success.
A 37-13 finish of the third quarter, whilst ensuring Gibraltar had practically secured the title, underlined France’s determination to stall Gibraltar’s game and try and walk away with a respectable scoreline.
It was not to be for the French as Gibraltar went out to try and repeat their earlier victory against France in the group stage.
Reducing France to just seven more points Gibraltar fell short themselves from reaching their 58 point target finishing with a 53-20 scoreline. A higher points difference than their previous encounter but short of their sixty target which had marked their performances in the Open Challenge.
There was little doubt of which side had shown their superiority on the court as Gibraltar lifted the second division trophy.
Unbeaten in their five matches to winning the title and with the lowest tally of points coming only in the final, Gibraltar had set a standard which could not be ignored. Its fast paced gameplay seeing Gibraltar’s strength across its squad displayed. Sarah Payas, who has guided the squad through its development stages in recent years, seeing how her team had provided evidence of Gibraltar’s fast development in the sport to become one of the top names within its Challenge category.
With Nadine Pardo-Zammitt also earning herself a place among netball’s elite umpires Gibraltar netball arrived in Gibraltar knowing they had flown the Gibraltar flag high and gaining further support from across the community.
Importantly, its mix of experience and youth underlined the Campion’s strengths across its squad are aimed towards the next few years. This year’s selection process having also shown that competition for places was strong with many up and coming youth players, and experienced players who have regularly held a place in the squad missing from those travelling to Cardiff. Gibraltar still seamlessly able to rotate its squad during the tournament. The full squad being the sole team which was composed of purely homegrown talents.

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