Heartbreak for Gibraltar Netball as Irish win
After a stunning tournament in which they remained unbeaten Ireland were proclaimed Netball Europe Open Challenge Cup Champions after beating host side Gibraltar in the final match of the tournament.
Host Netball Gibraltar could not have asked for a better tournament as three teams ended joint second in points, with goal difference marking the difference between them. The final match of the tournament deciding who would be the champions.
However, the defeat of Gibraltar by 34-39 was underlined by controversial umpiring which this time saw the umpires jeered by the crowd. Following the controversial decisions which led to Gibraltar's defeat at the hands of the United Arab Emirates, a full Tercentennary Sports Hall was less than obliging as they made clear their views on some of the umpiring which provided Ireland with an advantage leading to goals when Gibraltar were catching up.
Ireland had started off the match taking a 5-0 lead before Gibraltar responded. However, Gibraltar, after calming down and scoring started to match Ireland goal for goal only dropping back when several umpire decisions returned possession to Ireland, leading to them opening the gap for an 11-4 first quarter lead.
Some good defensive displays and strong stance at the back saw Gibraltar claw back the deficit with the score reduced to three points half way through the quarter. However, once again a number of challenges lead to uproar from the crowd which allowed Ireland to increase their leadt0 a 21-16.
A combative Gibraltar was not to be outdone. Facing a very strong performance from Ireland, who displayed why they were considered as one of the favorites at the start of the tournament pulled the score back and were able to come within touching distance of an equaliser. A tense third and fourth quarter had the crowds on their feet as the teams battled it out with a fast paced end to end match. Although having led by seven points at one time Ireland were reduced to securing the one point lead at one stage as Gibraltar came back at them.
At 28-29 Gibraltar failed to complete two crucial opportunities to overturn the score after stealing the ball at the back. Ireland made no mistake of their chances and opened up a gap taking the match to 31-37. Gibraltar's attempt to claw the point back were however, left in tatters as time started to tick away from them. A final 34-39 scoreline leaving Ireland as the victors and champions of the tournament.
With the Isle of Man having only just played against Israel earlier in the morning, their 80-20 victory left them as the side with the better goal difference between themselves, Gibraltar and the United Arab Emirates. All three equal in points. A handful of points was to decide Gibraltar's fate as they dropped to fourth with the UAE having completed their matches with a better goal difference.
The tournament came to an end with a presentation at the end of play. The tournament has been hailed a success after 100,000 viewers from across the world watched the event which was being streamed live.
The success of the tournament once again saw Gibraltar netball praised for its efforts in hosting a major tournament.