Team England will face Australia in the 2022 Commonwealth Games semi-final on Saturday afternoon after a sensational 44-54 victory in their final pool game, over reigning world champions New Zealand.
Finishing top of Pool B, Team England treated the sell-out crowd, to a ferocious encounter that also saw Jade Clarke record her 190th cap in the red dress.
Team England starting seven: Geva Mentor (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Stacey Francis-Bayman (WD), Jade Clarke (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS).
Substitutes: Laura Malcolm, Imogen Allison, Sophie Drakeford Lewis, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Jo Harten
New Zealand starting seven: Kelly Jury (GK), Sulu Fitzpatrick (GD), Kayla Johnson (WD), Whitney Souness (C), Gina Crampton (WA), Maia Wilson (GA), Grace Nweke (GS).
Substitutes: Kate Heffernan, Phoenix Karaka, Bailey Mes, Shannon Saunders, Te Paea Selby-Rickett
The opening quarter provided an electric encounter for the sell-out crowd to feast on. With both sides coming out of the blocks and converting every centre pass for most of the opening minutes it wasn’t long before a missed shot by New Zealand was picked up by Geva Mentor only to be thrown wide off court. Less than a minute later however it was back in England’s hands after a three second call was made in New Zealand’s attacking circle. This call proved to be an umpire favourite throughout the remainder of the first 15 minutes as Layla Guscoth wreaked havoc in the circle causing New Zealand to fault. England’s dominance was further powered by the increasingly loud home crowd and the ended the quarter ahead by seven.
Ready to close the gap between the pool B leaders, New Zealand returned to court with a steely determination. Equally eager to push on Team England’s dynamic trio of Cardwell, Housby and Cardwell treated the fans to lightning-fast feeds around the circle before long bombs galore tallied up on the board. Having earned her first cap against New Zealand back in February 2003, England stalwart Jade Clarke celebrated her 190th appearance in the red dress and showed no signs of slowing down by increasing the physicality through court and pushing New Zealand’s attack to the edge. Settling into the clash, New Zealand soon began to close the gap however and with quick reactions to any turnovers gained they quickly closed the gap to just one. Changes to England’s defence in the final minutes saw Laura Malcolm step out at wing defence in a bid to retain their lead heading into the second half. The half ended with England ahead by just one and a nail biting second half coming up.
Team England returned to court with just one change rung; Jo Harten took on the goal shooter bib much to the delight of a roaring crowd. An offside call to New Zealand’s centre saw England take their first turnover of the second half and it was only a matter of seconds before Housby converted the shot. Metcalf followed the point with a fierce interception on New Zealand’s centre pass and within three minutes England had extended their lead to five. Proving to be a championship quarter, Guscoth and Metcalf stole yet more ball from New Zealand and to the background of over 9,000 home fans England had lit a fire that was proving difficult to extinguish.
England’s confidence failed to falter as the final 15 minutes got underway. Boosting the squad’s performance with individual turnovers from Guscoth, Clarke and Mentor the clock ticked down whilst the score line rose at a pace similar to the arena’s volume level. With less than five minutes to go, in her debut Commonwealth Games, Imogen Allison came up with arguably the play of the tournament stealing an eye watering turnover, chasing the ball through the mid court and in one full sequence, delivering a pass straight to a wide-open Cardwell under the post. A calm and composed Housby delivered a familiar scene with a final second shot under the post and the deal was sealed. Team England, Pool B winners and 2022 Commonwealth Games semi-finalists.
Team England’s victory sees them face world ranked number one side Australia in the second semi-final clash on Saturday 6 August at 2.30pm.
Here’s a guide to the competition, including how you can follow all the action.
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