The Vitality Roses are heading towards the Vitality Netball World Cup semi-finals by making it five wins out of five with a challenging but ultimately comfortable 72-46 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
Roses coach Tracey Neville again elected to ring the changes, with wing attack, Natalie Haythornthwaite, being given a place in a World Cup starting seven for the very first time.
Trinidad and Tobago started confidently, but some outstanding defence combined with accurate shooting meant that the Roses were soon in charge of their destiny.
Trinidad and Tobago continued to offer solid resistance, particularly in an early, second-quarter rally, but Vitality Roses’ further tactical changes injected a greater sense of purpose, and the Roses started to dominate the scoring exchanges, successfully closing out the match.
The Calypso Girls bounced their first centre pass out beyond the sideline, allowing Harten to open the scoring, while Rachel Dunn was twice dumped on the floor in quick succession before netting the Vitality Roses third goal of the game.
Good work from Eboni Usoro-Brown, amongst others, allowed the Roses to take a commanding lead, as Harten in particular found her groove in the circle.
The crowd – England were playing on the new, one-court layout for the first time in the tournament – were in buoyant mood, cheering the Roses’ every goal as the hosts extended their lead out to 20-12 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Haythornthwaite and Housby in particular were combining well, and Harten was displaying her usual accuracy in front of goal – her 30th of the game saw the Vitality Roses 39-23 up at half time, while their defence was also gaining momentum, snuffing out the threat of Samantha Wallace as the Trinidad and Tobago goal shooter went ten minutes between goals 11 and 12.
In the second half Housby and Harten both suffered a couple of rare, straightforward misses, before giving the Roses a 43-27 advantage. Trinidad and Tobago were struggling to contain the speed of England’s mid-court players with several passes going astray, but Wallace was at least now having more of an impact on the game, shooting her fifteenth goal.
However a careless shot on her part saw England move 17 goals ahead, as Harten and Housby put their slow start to the quarter behind them. England led 56-33 going into the last 15 minutes.
Dunn made a welcome return to court for the fourth quarter, and was soon back on the scoresheet. Trinidad and Tobago profited from some Roses uncertainty to peg the score back to 60-38, with Khalifa McCollin bevoming the first of their shooters to reach the 20-goal mark.
Neville, who had already given Chelsea Pitman some game time at centre, continued to rotate from the bench, with Serena Guthrie returning to court as England experimented with different combinations.
Some typical Guthrie interceptions were replicated by the likes of Housby and Usoro-Brown as England’s lead stretched out to beyond 25, with the home fans able to applaud their side of after an eventual 72-46 win.
Jo Harten commented on the performance: “We’ve had some really clinical patches of play throughout these last five games. Today was another test, Trinidad and Tobago really brought it to us, but I felt like we bounced back from any lapses of concentration. Ultimately, I’m really happy with the girls and how we performed out there.
“It was a bit challenging at times because they are quite unorthodox; they take the ball at different angles, they throw their body on the ball and their really speedy as athletes as well. We tried to play as a defensive unit and in attack it’s just about holding your body strong. I think we got some really good space in that shooting circle, there were loads of combinations that Tracey [Neville] threw out in our attacking end and we responded well to the changes.”