The Vitality Roses continued their excellent form at the Vitality Netball World Cup as they brushed aside Samoa 90-24 in a one-sided contest to finish top of Group D.
Tracey Neville’s side were once again backed by a raucous home crowd at the M&S Bank Arena but the biggest cheer of the morning came before the game had even begun when Layla Guscoth, ruled out for the rest of the tournament after rupturing her left Achilles against Scotland, emerged courtside to sit on the bench with the rest of her teammates.
The two sides had faced each other three times in the World Cup, with the Vitality Roses winning all three, and the last meeting had come in 2015 with England comfortable victors on that day.
On this occasion, the Roses got into their attacking stride quickly as they raced into a 4-0 lead with their fluid passing proving too much for their opponents.
Samoa eventually began to settle, and the two sides started to trade goals with the goal shooters on both sides, Joanne Harten for the Vitality Roses and Toa Tanimo for Samoa, shooting 100% in the opening exchanges.
As the quarter wore on, the Roses began to impose themselves on Samoa, forcing 12 turnovers as they built a commanding lead which had extended to 15 by the end of the period. Harten continued her efficient shooting making all 15 of her goal attempts as the first quarter finished 22-7.
Samoa were finding scoring opportunities much harder to come by as the Vitality Roses’ defensive play, led by Geva Mentor and Eboni Usoro-Brown, seemed to get better and better as the half went on, limiting Samoa to just five goal attempts in the entire second quarter.
It was Harten who continued to be the star of the show, however, as she finished the half with 100% shooting. She made all 31 of her goal attempts as England went into half time with a 43-11 lead.
As has been the case for the majority of the tournament, Tracey Neville continued to make changes, and after Rachel Dunn replaced Harten at half time she instantly picked up where she left off against Scotland, scoring two quickfire goals.
Samoa also made changes themselves as goal attack Eseta Autagavaia started the third quarter well making her first two goal attempts to keep the scoreboard ticking for her side.
Dunn and Natalie Haythornthwaite continued to build on the Roses’ lead, but Samoa also enjoyed their joint best scoring quarter as they made seven of their eight goal attempts with Tee Salanoa and Autagavaia shooting a combined 87.5%.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 65-18 lead, the Roses continued to mix and match different combinations and it was a much more even start to the final period.
Once again though, the Vitality Roses began to dominate as the minutes ticked by and Dunn and Harten, who returned from the bench for the fourth quarter, continued their shooting form to lead the Roses to victory.
Victory for England means they advance to Group G of Preliminaries Stage Two with six points, whilst Samoa move into Group E to join Singapore as they search for their first win.
Vitality Roses’ Jo Harten said:
“We just had some fun out there today, letting the ball go, off the pass, off the shot and it was a good win and a good performance.
“We had to respect Samoa. We put out a really strong team and we had to get off to a good start but once we had the jitters and the nerves out the way we were just having fun out there.
“The crowd were awesome. I don’t think I’ve played in front of a home crowd like that before. Every goal, every pass you could feel them playing it with us. They’re really getting behind us not just in the arena but around the country.”