England kicked off their Netball World Cup journey with a comprehensive 90-29 victory over Barbados.
Five players made their World Cup debuts including Funmi Fadoju who picked up Player of the Match in her first game in a major tournament.
Vitality Roses starting seven: Geva Mentor (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Imogen Allison (WD), Jade Clarke (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Eleanor Cardwell (GA), Helen Housby (GS)
Substitutes: Funmi Fadoju, Laura Malcolm, Chelsea Pitman, Olivia Tchine, Francesca Williams
Barbados starting seven: Faye Agard (GK), Akeena Stoute (GD), Tonisha Rock-Yaw (WD), Teresa Howell (C), Sasha Corbin (WA), Latonia Blackman (GA), Kadeen Corbin (GS)
Substitutes: Carla Boyce, Brianna Holder, Amanda Knight, Tamara Trotman, Damia Walrond
World Cup debutant Eleanor Cardwell got England off and running with the first goal of the game. Lining up with two former Roses in Kadeen and Sasha Corbin, Barbados fought back picking up early turnovers as the Roses let go of some loose passes early on.
But Imogen Allison, also starting in her first World Cup at wing defence, combined well with on-court captain Layla Guscoth to pick up a couple of intercepts in response. Helen Housby started sharply, shooting at 100% for the half as she and Cardwell helped England to an eight-goal lead at the end of the first quarter.
Keen to rotate her squad, Head Coach Jess Thirlby drafted in Olivia Tchine and Laura Malcolm in for their first appearances of the Netball World Cup. Within seconds, Tchine got her first goal and the young shooter continued to pose problems for Barbados throughout the game with her incredible wingspan as England found success with the long ball.
Kadeen Corbin moved back to goal attack as Latonia Blackman, playing in a record-equalling sixth World Cup, took the goal shooter bib. The Bajan Gems then began to find some rhythm after England had scored 19 unanswered goals thanks to impressive ball speed in the middle of the court through Nat Metcalf, Laura Malcolm and Imogen Allison. By halftime, the Vitality Roses had established a 42-18 lead.
England came out for the second half with a rotated seven as Geva Mentor returned to goal keeper and was joined by Funmi Fadoju who made an immediate impact on her World Cup debut, picking off a rebound with her incredible leap within seconds of coming on.
Chelsea Pitman went into wing attack and Metcalf moved into the circle with Tchine as Thirlby rotated the England attacking end. As the game went on, the Vitality Roses grew in confidence whilst their opponents found it difficult to break down their relentless defence.
In the final quarter Kadeen Corbin showed her positional flexibility as she moved from attack to defence. But with Helen Housby and Eleanor Cardwell back on court together, Barbados were unable to stop England’s flow as the pair continued to rack up the goals.
Spurred on by a strong contingent of travelling Roses fans, England pushed on to score 25 goals in the final quarter and take their goal tally up to 90 – the highest number of goals England have scored against Barbados in their seventh meeting at a World Cup.
Player of the Match: Funmi Fadoju
Speaking after the game Head Coach Jess Thirlby commented: “It's a solid start. I think whilst we're not getting carried away with the scoreboard, one of the learnings for us was to be more consistent quarter on quarter, irrelevant of changes, and I think we got stronger with each quarter.”
Vitality Roses co-captain, Layla Guscoth spoke about the experience playing against the Corbin sisters, adding: “I'm not going to lie, standing on the line opposite them was a bit weird. You know whenever you play against them you're going to be in for a fast-paced game but I thought we weathered the storm quite well in the end."
Player of the Match Funmi Fadoju was proud to play alongside childhood idol, Geva Mentor. She said: “Every day I'm just like, I can't believe I'm playing with Geva Mentor! She's so supportive and such a strong person to have back there. I just love her leadership on court. She's always high-fiving us and cheering us on. I just love playing with her.”
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 return to action tomorrow to take on Malawi, live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix at 5pm (UK time).
You can watch the highlights from this match here: https://youtu.be/_WNGiQ72IBA