England once again had an extremely successful Netball Europe weekend as the Under 17 and Under 19 squads won their respective competitions. The Under 17s headed over the Irish Sea to compete in Dublin while the Under 19s travelled to north Wales to defend their titles. The competition started on Friday morning and climaxed on Sunday evening with England being crowned champions at both Events. Undefeated Under 17s retain Netball Europe trophy in Dublin
The England Under 17 squad set off for Dublin on Thursday morning looking to hold onto the trophy they had won 12 months previously. For most it was an unusually early start as a training session was booked at the venue for lunch time, which entailed catching a plane pre-sunrise. A bleary eyed squad arrived at the hotel to drop off some luggage and grab some rest before an afternoon training session. Excitement and nerves were obvious as the team arrived at the venue for their preparation looking ahead to the opening fixture against Northern Ireland. One good training session down and an evening meeting after dinner ensured that the team were ready to open their campaign.
The match against Northern Ireland was planned for an 11:45am start, so it was an early rise for the squad and breakfast. At 9:30 the team were packed onto the bus and heading towards the venue with tension and anticipation rising. A good start to the campaign was essential and the Under 17s did not disappoint. Excellent defence work allowed the team to push into an early lead. Turnovers and quick passing was finished with fine shooting by Amanda Davis as England finished the first quarter 15 – 3 to the good. This gave the squad a platform to really dominate the rest of the game as England finished the half 31 – 9 in the lead.
The stranglehold that England had on the game also allowed Denise Ellis to make tactical changes and ensure that the whole squad were awarded their first England cap. At the final whistle England had extended their lead to 64 – 19 and had deservedly won their opening game. Next up to tackle the England team was Wales. After a blistering start in the previous match, the England team were confident that they could dictate the tempo of the play and take the game by the scruff of the neck. This ploy worked superbly as England entered the interval in a commanding position, leading 31 – 9. The attacking play from the team was relentless and again tactical changes only helped to reap more punishment on the young Welsh side as continued pressure forced errors and allow England to see the game out 76 – 14. Two wins from two were now secured and the Under 17s were one win away from the title.
The third and final day would see the highly anticipated clash between England and Scotland. The camp was in high spirits after the previous convincing victories and they were now determined to remain undefeated and be crowned champions. Another rampaging start from the team saw them cruise into a 31 – 10 lead at half-time. A fantastic defensive display in the final 30 minutes restricted Scotland to just seven more points as England professionally closed the game down to win 65 – 17 and become Netball Europe champions. Sheer adulation was experienced on court as the final whistle sounded and the reality of the win set in. All that remained was for team captain Amy Stevens to hold aloft the trophy and for the team to take their deserved plaudits in front of raucous crowd. The trophy returns once more to our shore and the squad could reflect on a job well done. England shooters dominant as team crowned champions at Netball Europe Under 19 competition
The England squad arrived in north Wales on Thursday evening in an expectant mood. Morale was high as the team looked forward to defending their trophy, starting with a match against Northern Ireland. However, before they could get into the business of match play, the team had a training session on Friday afternoon in preparation for their match later that evening. This was a chance for the athletes to acclimatise to their surroundings and go through those last minute tactics and strategies. At 8pm the first game for England was underway. From the very first whistle the squad showcased their professionalism and skill. An outstanding display of dominance ensured that the first quarter ended 22 – 4 in England’s favour, but better was to come. The second quarter saw the England defence completely shut out Northern Ireland as they entered half-time leading 43 -4.
This was a completely dominant display and the squad could easily have entered cruise control but that was not the mentality of this side. The foot firmly remained on the gas as they secured victory with a 78 – 10 score line. As expected this sent confidence through the squad to astronomical proportions. A resounding win was a great start but the team were adamant that this was just the start. Next up was a match against Scotland on Saturday afternoon. The Scottish team proved to be a sterner test for the England team as they showed attacking intent from the opening passages of play. A strong defence was required and the team were more than up for the challenge as they provided razor sharp turnover ball and great use of quick passing pushed England into a 39 – 10 half-time lead. England were now in control of the match and with the defence overpowering the Scottish attack it was down to the shooters to put the game beyond reach and they absolutely delivered. The team ended the match with shooting stats of 87% as the match finished 67 – 23 to England.
That made it two wins from two played, but the final match would be the hardest as the squad face home competition in Wales. It was not just a strong Welsh line-up that would prove difficult but also a fiercely passionate home crowd. The atmosphere before the game was incredible and it stayed as such for the entire match. Before the tournament began this game was singled out as a potential ‘winner takes all’ affair and with both teams having won their opening matches this was exactly what was delivered. This was the time for England to show their mettle and determination.
An enthralling first quarter ensued and with some brilliant attacking from dead ball situations accompanying solid defence, England were to nudge in front 14 -7. This pattern continued in the following 15 minutes as the away team managed to stifle the home support slightly by entering half-time with a 30 – 15 lead. The tempo was raised even further in the second half and controversy reigned throughout. Despite the raised temperatures on court, the England team managed to keep calm and level headed as they continued to extend their lead and take the trophy away from Wales. A pulsating match finished 63 – 24 to England and the Under 19s were able to celebrate a fantastic win after an extremely competitive encounter.
An exhilarating tournament concluded with England having scored 208 goals and having the top three scorers of the competition. First was Rosie Allison with 95/104 - 91%, Shaunagh Craig was second having scored 52/61 - 85% and third was Alice Ewer netting 19/23 - 83%. However, the cherry on top came thanks to Rachel Shaw who was named player of the tournament. The England team were sent to Wales as a well drilled unit and were looking to not only win the competition but to really showcase the skills they had worked on. This tournament was an exhibit of this and the squad can really be commended on how they prepared and executed their game plans to be crowned Netball Europe Under 19 champions.