England Netball

England made it two from two at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games on Friday morning with an impressive 74-49 victory over Malawi.

Tracey Neville made a number of changes to the starting seven from the Roses opener against Scotland with Natalie Haythornthwaite (WA), Beth Cobden (WD) and Eboni Beckford-Chambers (GD) starting and Jade Clarke taking the C bib.

Kadeen Corbin had commented pre-match that England needed to start fast to set the tone for the game and they absolutely flew out of the traps.

Jo Harten opened the scoring from the first centre-pass after combining well with Clarke on the edge of the circle.

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Cobden put Malawi under real defensive pressure and England profited from her hard work with Beckford-Chambers picking up a loose ball to set the Roses on their way and Harten on hand to finish the move.

Malawi, known for playing a possession game, appeared to be struggling at times to find that killer pass into the perfect position in the circle.

Geva Mentor was doing everything in her power to thwart their attack with a number of tips but Mwai Kumwenda eventually managed to get the Queens off the mark.

Helen Housby scored two – one from close in and one from mid-range – in quick succession before adding another to take England out to 5-1 four minutes in.

The Roses were looking deadly when playing the ball quickly from the centre-pass – a slick move from Clarke to Housby to Haythornthwaite to Harten was rewarded with England moving to 7-3 up.

The talismanic Kumwenda tried to get her side going at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, sinking another goal after an excellent Malawi one-two.

The Queens were displaying their athleticism and beginning to get into a rhythm midway through the first quarter.

Malawi were patiently building from the back of the court but Cobden pounced on a loose ball to set England on the attack again.

Housby was unlucky to see an effort bounce out but Neville’s side regained possession and Harten was on hand to add another to her, and England’s, tally.

There were errors creeping into play from both sides – firstly an overcooked Malawi pass handed ball back to England but the Roses later cheaply conceded possession themselves after a footwork call against the Queens.

At the start of the second quarter, Serena Guthrie (WD) and Kadeen Corbin (GA) entered the fray with the mid-courter straight into the heart of the action to win the ball back and start an England attacking move.

Harten was nailing shot after shot – one after a particularly impressive take – and making it look effortless as England stretched out to 22-16 five minutes into the second quarter.

The Roses defenders were having to remain alert and on their toes at all times with Malawi twisting and turning and playing the ball around the circle.

A Harten attempted bounce pass through to Corbin was picked off by the Malawi defence with the Queens quickly transitioning the ball through court and capitalising.

Kumwenda then added another to Malawi’s tally, taking a step in from a penalty to score from under the post.

A pin-point Haythornthwaite feed found Australia-based Harten, who made no mistake and England took a healthy eight-goal lead into the half-time break.

At the beginning of the third quarter, captain Ama Agbeze and Chelsea Pitman took to court with Haythornthwaite moving to GA.

The Roses steadily pulled further ahead of their Pool B rivals with the score standing at 45-32 with five and a half minutes remaining in Q3.

Wasps Netball’s Haythornthwaite settled into her new role and was unfortunate to see an effort dribble over the back but Harten gathered and scored.

Despite an 11-goal gap going into the final 15 minutes, the Malawi Queens were by no means down and out.

A Harten shot helped England hit the 50 mark but the Roses refused to settle and kept pushing, extending their advantage to 20 goals with 10 minutes remaining.

Neville’s side kept the score ticking over with Pitman picking out Housby with a defence splitting pass to take it to 67-47.

Kumwenda once again showcased her athleticism and core strength under pressure from Mentor to score as she fell off court.

A solid third quarter and a blistering final 15 continued England’s perfect start to the Commonwealth Games.

England’s next Pool B fixture is against Uganda on Sunday morning (first centre-pass at 06:00am).

England starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – Housby, WA – Haythornthwaite, C – Clarke, WD – Cobden, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor

Malawi starting 7: GS – Kumwenda, GA – Simtowe, WA – Galleta, C – Lwazi, WD – Kachilika, GD – Vinkhumbo, GK – Ngwira

Full match stats are available here.

Catch up via BBC on England vs Malawi here.

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