England made it five wins from five with a comprehensive 89-28 win over Fiji, securing their place in the final four at the Netball World Cup.
Jess Thirlby’s side will next play Australia on Thursday morning (8am UK time) in their final pool game, live on the BBC and Sky Sports, before the semi-finals on Saturday.
Vitality Roses starting seven: Geva Mentor (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Laura Malcolm (WD), Imogen Allison (C), Nat Metcalf (WA), Eleanor Cardwell (GA), Helen Housby (GS)
Substitutes: Jade Clarke, Funmi Fadoju, Chelsea Pitman, Olivia Tchine, Fran Williams
Fiji starting seven: Kelera Nawai-Caucau (GK), Adi Bolakoro (GD), Ana Moi (WD), Ana Nauqe (C), Jimaima Kete (WA), Maria Lutua-Rusvakula (GA), Malania Rusivakula (GS)
Substitutes: Elina Drikibau, Josephine Nailumu, Lydia Panapasa, Malania Rauluni Unaisi, Kalesi Tawake
With 16 places between the two sides in the world rankings, England established their authority early, pressing Fiji high up the court and causing errors. Imogen Allison, who was Player of the Match yesterday against Tonga, picked up from where she left making a brilliant intercept on the edge of the defensive third, her first of three of the half. Her partner in the middle of the court Laura Malcolm stretched the Fiji defence with a superb long ball down the line to Helen Housby who quickly found Eleanor Cardwell under the post as the two shooters put up England’s highest scoring quarter of the tournament.
At the start of the second quarter wing attack Chelsea Pitman was introduced for her 50th cap for the Vitality Roses. She was joined on court by her club teammate Funmi Fadoju, coming on in place of Geva Mentor at goal keeper. The 20-year-old who has picked up the most gains for England in this tournament so far was quickly involved in the action as she picked up a low ball in the circle as the Pearls struggled to find space in the circle. Just before halftime, Cardwell showed great improvisation using her signature claw movement, clutching a high ball just over the backline with one hand before playing a no-look pass to Guscoth. With just a few seconds before the buzzer, the shooter took England to 50 goals, as England restricted their opponents to just seven for the quarter.
Head Coach Jess Thirlby ensured all 12 were given time on court as Fran Williams, Jade Clarke and Olivia Tchine all came on in the second half. Guscoth and Fadoju went hunting for the ball as they continued to press Fiji high up the court. The Pearls enjoyed their best spell in the third quarter as they made their first intercepts of the game. Whilst England were limited to 19 goals in the quarter, Cardwell was sharp under the post, recording an impressive 40 goals from 41 intercepts, which ultimately earned her Player of the Match.
Geva Mentor returned at goal keeper and alongside Fadoju, the pair were ruthless in the final quarter, limiting Fiji to just five goals. Housby joined Tchine in the shooting circle in place of Metcalf and the pair continued to develop their connection on court, rotating in and out of the circle. Malcolm also returned to the action and linked up well with Clarke and Pitman as the Vitality Roses added another 20 goals to their tally to record their biggest win over Fiji at a World Cup and secure their place in the semi-finals.
Reflecting on the team’s progress so far, Head Coach Jess Thirlby commented: “I think we're in a good place. We're not getting carried away. We just need to quietly go about our business. There's a nice quiet confidence in the group and I think tonight's a good step in the right direction. Irrelevant of who the opposition are, we've stayed very true to our Roses way. I think we're in a really healthy place, both away from the court and on it."
Speaking after making her 50th appearance for the Vitality Roses, Chelsea Pitman said: “To be able to say that I've got 50 caps for England is absolutely the best feeling ever. Just to get one cap is an honour so to be able to have stepped out for 50 test matches in multiple different championships and tournaments is an absolute privilege.”
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 next play Australia on Thursday morning at 8am (UK time) live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix.
You can watch the highlights from this match here: https://youtu.be/fBTzRd82Y6Q