England make strong start to their GC2018 campaign

England got their Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign off to a strong start on Thursday morning with a 74-28 win against Scotland.

All 12 players took to court as Tracey Neville’s side saw off a vastly improved and battling Scottish Thistles team.

Both sides were fired up for their opening match at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

There was no period of tentatively testing the waters for either side as each team went full throttle from the first whistle.

Hayley Mulheron displayed her athleticism to keep the ball in play and set Scotland on their way, but the transition through court broke down.

The Thistles, who are currently ranked ninth in the world, put the Roses under pressure from the off and were defending resolutely as a unit but England remained patient and opened up a 14-6 lead.

Serena Guthrie hobbled off in the opening quarter with Beth Cobden coming on at WD for her Commonwealth Games debut and England’s most-capped Rose Jade Clarke switching to C.

The Thistles were threatening in and around the final third but the experienced defensive duo of Ama Agbeze and Geva Mentor proved a thorn in their side and Scotland failed to capitalise with an overcooked pass handing possession back to the Roses.

In an attempt to freshen things up and get a foothold in the game, Gail Parata made several Scotland changes.

But a relaxed Jo Harten, who missed out on the Netball Quad Series in January through injury, continued England’s imperious form, taking their tally to 30 with four minutes still to play in the second quarter.

The Housby-Harten combination was working a treat with the NSW Swifts player popping the ball off to Harten, who added another.

A trademark Mentor intercept set England on the attack once again but they wasted the opportunity to pull further ahead with an easily picked off pass.

From one GK to another, this time the Scotland keeper read a Clarke feed into Harten and flew in to steal.

Housby had found her range and comfortably landed a penalty shot to keep the score ticking over.

With seconds remaining on the clock, a slick transition through court from Mentor to Clarke to Harten was rewarded with the GIANTS Netball star keeping her composure to fire the Roses to 34-14 at half-time.

At the start of the third quarter, Neville brought on Kadeen Corbin and Eboni Beckford-Chambers, as well as handing Commonwealth debuts to Natalie Haythornthwaite and Jodie Gibson.

But the changes to combinations didn’t affect the Roses’ momentum or intensity.

A beautifully weighted looped pass from Haythornthwaite found Corbin, who scored from close in as England continued to extend their lead.

Scotland enjoyed some good passages of play though with Niamh McCall bringing the Thistles’ tally up to 20.

The Roses were moving the ball quickly and precisely in the final third and were on 91% for shooting at one stage.

England were also defending tirelessly as a unit with a Jade Clarke block breaking down Scotland’s build-up play and allowing Gibson to reclaim possession and set the Roses off down court in another slick attacking move.

The highlight of the match – and latest social media viral video – came courtesy of Corbin with a behind-the-back pass to Harten which looked effortless.

Haythornthwaite displayed excellent vision and accuracy to pick out teammate Harten with a cross-court pass and the GS finished with aplomb.

Down the other end, Nicola McCleery and Claire Brownie combined well for Scotland. A smart swing to the top of the circle opened up space to find the available shooter.

The Roses stretched further ahead in the closing stages with assured defending, pinpoint passing and sharp shooting.

All of the players exuded intensity, commitment, determination, drive and passion, and deservedly got their Gold Coast quest off to a winning start.

England’s next Pool B fixture is against Malawi on Friday morning (first centre-pass at 09:30am).

The Roses previously faced the Queens in a three-match Vitality Netball International Series in November 2017, when they sealed the Series 3-0.

England starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – Housby, WA – Pitman, C – Guthrie, WD – Clarke, GD – Agbeze, GK – Mentor

Scotland starting 7: GS – Goodwin, GA – Gallagher, WA – McCleery, C – Brownie, WD – Murphy, GD – Themann, GK – Mulheron

Full match stats are available here.

Watch BBC Sport’s short recap video here.

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