England came from eight goals down to record a historic 56-55 victory over the world number ones Australia and finish top of the pool ahead of the Commonwealth Games champions.
It’s the Vitality Roses’ first win against the Australian Diamonds in 14 meetings at the Netball World Cup and means they will play in the first semi-final on Saturday morning at 10am (UK time) on the BBC and Sky Sports.
Vitality Roses starting seven: Geva Mentor (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Laura Malcolm (WD), Imogen Allison (C), Nat Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Jade Clarke, Funmi Fadoju, Chelsea Pitman, Olivia Tchine, Francesca Williams
Australia starting seven: Courtney Bruce (GK), Jo Weston (GD), Ash Brazill (WD), Paige Hadley (C), Liz Watson (WA), Steph Wood (GA), Cara Koenen (GS)
Substitutes: Sunday Aryang, Kiera Austin, Sophie Garbin, Sarah Klau, Jamie-Lee Price
After a tense opening couple of minutes, England earned the first two turnovers of the game as Laura Malcolm pressured Liz Watson into an offside position before flying through the middle to make her first intercept. The Vitality Roses showed great bravery in attack as Malcolm and Nat Metcalf stretched the Diamonds with long passes down the line and across the circle whilst Eleanor Cardwell and Helen Housby were faultless under the post as they shot their side to a 15-13 lead.
Australia Head Coach Stacey Marinkovich brought on Sarah Klau in place of Courtney Bruce at goal keeper and the 28-year-old made an immediate impact flying out from the back to pick off passes into England’s attacking end. The Diamonds’ defence continued to press England high up the court and forced England into letting go of the ball. Helen Housby briefly left the court after getting blood on her knee but came back on at goal shooter to maintain her 100% shooting start to the game. At the other end of the court, Steph Wood was a constant threat for the Diamonds as she took the most centre pass receives, connecting the Australia attack whilst remaining composed under the post. After a 19-11 quarter, the Commonwealth Games champions had a six-goal lead at the break.
At half-time England Head Coach Jess Thirlby made three changes bringing Fran Williams on at goal keeper, Fadoju back at goal defence and Jade Clarke at centre as Allison moved back to wing defence. The Diamonds continued to frustrate England at the start of the second half but as the quarter progressed, the Vitality Roses began to edge their way back into the game as Australia’s attack made a couple of unforced errors. Chelsea Pitman came on for Metcalf and made an immediate impact producing a superb long feed to Cardwell under the post. Just before the break, Liz Watson received a caution after catching Jade Clarke late on the transverse line.
With the Vitality Roses in the ascendency, they forced Australia into another error straight after the restart on the centre pass. A few minutes later, Fran Williams, made her first intercept of the game, palming the ball wide on the circle edge before swiping it back into the middle to Pitman as England took the lead for the first time since quarter two. But in response, Jo Weston helped Australia get back onto level terms on the centre pass with a great intercept to deny Pitman out wide. Both sides went goal for goal until the final seconds when the Roses were ahead by one, Australia were unable to find the goal in the dying moments as England held on to take top spot in the pool.
Speaking after the game, Head Coach Jess Thirlby said: “I think the fact that we were eight down and then to be pushed in the last 15 and still come out on top, I don't think you can underestimate mentally, what that tells me about where the group are at.
“It's a massively important moment for this group in particular as it just adds to our confidence bank, but we know that we've got games to come and it means nothing if we can't follow it up, but for today, it is important for these guys to just celebrate that.”
Imogen Allison added: “I think every win is a confidence boost for us. We've had some games where we've been able to throw out different combos and I think that's why we were able to do it out there today. All the girls who came on had a huge impact.”
All of the games from the Netball World Cup are being shown live on Sky Sports, with one match per day available to all on Sky Sports YouTube. The BBC will have live coverage of matches from Monday 31 July up to and including the final across BBC Television, iPlayer, Sounds and the BBC Sport website.
The Vitality Roses will play in the first semi-final on Saturday at 10am (UK time) on the BBC and Sky Sports. They will learn who their opponents will be later today.
You can watch the highlights from this match here: https://youtu.be/MOn48I-NGbk