A sell-out crowd at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena watched on as the Vitality Roses made it two wins from two at the Vitality Netball World Cup, beating Scotland 70-34.
England coach Tracey Neville chose to rotate her squad; Jo Harten, Geva Mentor and captain Serena Guthrie were all named on the sub’s bench from the start.
By contrast, Gail Parata – Neville’s counterpart for Scotland – selected an unchanged starting seven, keeping faith with the players who had earned their opening-day win over Samoa.
The Vitality Roses started positively, as a first-minute interception by Jade Clarke led to Rachel Dunn slotting home. The goal shooter then added four goals in quick succession to give the Roses a 5-1 lead.
After a nervy start Scotland rallied to bring the score to 9-6. As they stretched away again though, the Vitality Roses were dealt a blow when Layla Guscoth limped off in the closing stages of the first quarter – a quarter which England ended 18-9 ahead.
Housby opened the scoring in the second quarter, before attacking partner Dunn then kept up her 100% accuracy. Scotland’s Bethan Goodwin was starting to find her range after a wayward first quarter, however the Roses continued to benefit from some loose Scotland passing to extend the scoreline to 25-13.
The crowd lapped up a stunning pass from Dunn, who then finished the move by netting her 17th goal. Following another intercepted Claire Maxwell pass, Housby was then able to extend the Roses’ lead to 13 goals.
It was deep into the second quarter when Dunn registered her first missed attempt, however it mattered not to the partisan crowd, as England went in at half time 35-20 in front.
For the second half, Neville made several positional changes, bringing on Chelsea Pitman, Natalie Haythornthwaite and Guthrie. The latter was straight into her stride, with a trademark interception setting up Dunn’s 29th goal of the game.
Scotland took their turn to make some substitutions, with Maxwell not having the impact she would have hoped for. Dunn’s reach and ability to find space meant that she was still excelling in the shooting circle, and her buzzer beater took the third quarter score to 55-26.
In the fourth, Scotland ceded possession from their initial centre pass; the desire of the Vitality Roses defenders for the ball, as so often, proving decisive. Goal number 40 for Dunn extended England’s lead to almost 30, however Lynsey Gallagher’s 92% shooting accuracy was keeping the scoreboard ticking for the Thistles.
Fittingly though, Dunn was in the action right up until the end, finishing with 49 of England’s 70 goals, from her 52 attempts.
Jade Clarke commented on the team’s performance: “Serena said to us before the game that I want to use this match to really build and I think it was another step up, it wasn’t perfect by any means but I think we’re getting better each game so I’m really looking forward to another hit out against another style again in Samoa.
“I think as elite athletes you always have to have that little bit of nerves, I’d be worried if you weren’t a little bit nervous but I think we use them to our advantage and are all just loving being out there playing right now.”
Eboni Usoro-Brown also commented: “We’re feeling really good, I think we wanted to get into our flow a bit today especially going into the second half. It was good to build on yesterday but there’s still more to come for the rest of the tournament. I think the team performed really well across the four quarters.
“For me personally I’m absolutely loving it, this is my third world cup and I’m on 98 caps now. Who knew I’d still be here. I feel really privileged and fortunate to be playing at such a high level with such a phenomenal group of girls and hopefully going for that elusive gold medal.”