In their first game of the second phase of the Netball World Cup, England raised the tempo to record a 72-46 win over a testing Tonga team.
Imogen Allison played a pivotal role in the middle of the court and received Player of the Match.
Vitality Roses starting seven: Francesca Williams (GK), Funmi Fadoju (GD), Laura Malcolm (WD), Imogen Allison (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Jade Clarke, Layla Guscoth, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman, Olivia Tchine
Tonga starting seven: Mo’onia Gerrard (GK), Kelea Iongi (GD), Valu Toutaiolepo (WD), Hulita Veve (C), Salote Taufa (WA), Marie Hansen (GA), Uneeq Palavi (GS)
Substitutes: Luana Aukafolau, Lose Fainga’anuku, Lucia Fauonuku, Beyonce Palavi, Cat Tuivaiti
The Vitality Roses raced out of the blocks with Eleanor Cardwell putting up six goals within the first few minutes and showing great commitment to recover a loose ball on the sideline, running off court before swiping the ball back into play. At the other end of the court, Fran Williams, starting at goal keeper for the first time in this tournament, showed great awareness to pick off a long ball and send England back on the offensive. Just before the break, there was a rare toss-up after both sides were caught breaking on the centre pass.
After allowing Tonga to put up 13 goals in the first 15 minutes, the Vitality Roses tightened up defensively in the second quarter as goal defence Funmi Fadoju went hunting for the ball and picked up two intercepts in the matter of seconds. Meanwhile, in the centre of the court, Imogen Allison broke through the middle to kickstart a great counter-attacking move as England put together a string of goals to extend their lead to 38-22 at the break.
Head Coach Jess Thirlby made two changes at the break bringing Layla Guscoth in at goal defence, pushing Fadoju back to goal keeper and bringing double-centurion Jade Clarke in the middle for Allison. She was pitted against Hulita Vele, one of Tonga’s standout stars in the competition. She excelled again today, picking up six intercepts whilst conducting the play from the middle of the court as the Tala went goal-for-goal with the Vitality Roses for most of the quarter. Olivia Tchine, enjoying her first World Cup with England, came on in place of Cardwell and was composed in the circle, scoring at 100% with 13/13 attempts in the second half.
Geva Mentor came on for the final 15 minutes at goal keeper whilst Imogen Allison returned to court at wing defence, picking up where she left off with more great defensive work and quick transitions in attack. The teams were serenaded with soulful singing from the local crowd in the final few minutes as England enjoyed a strong finish to the game with Cardwell coming back on to surpass 30 goals and give the Vitality Roses a winning start to the second phase of the competition.
Head Coach Jess Thirlby commented after the game: "I thought the whole team came with great energy today. I thought Imo [Imogen Allison] was excellent. We were really looking for a stronger start and I thought that we were pretty clinical with possession in the opening quarter, which was really reassuring."
Co-captain Nat Metcalf added: "Imo's amazing. She’s a northern lass and we go way back having played at Yorkshire Jets together. I think she's incredible.
"I think Jess said it that the energy felt really good in the build-up at the start. I think what Imogen brings is just that confidence in the centre. I know if I'm passing a ball to her, she's going to get on the end of it. She’s fearless on the feed and she's willing to put her back on the line for you."
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 Fiji tomorrow evening at 7pm (UK time) live on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer, and Sky Sports Arena and Mix.
You can watch the highlights from this match here: https://youtu.be/zwp-uOtEUfY