Australia 63 England 42
Englands quest for Gold at the World Youth Netball Championships ended this evening with a competitive and hard fought match against a very effective and efficient Australian Team. Neutral spectators at this tournament had predicted a close match, with very little to choose between any of the semi final teams, and that was how this match started.
The England team believed they had nothing to fear from Australia in advance of the match, they believed they could win and win on merit, and the early exchanges suggested that could be the case. England started with a line up of:
Rosie Allison (GS), Jo Harten (GA), Katy Rose (WA), Serena Guthrie (C), Stacey Francis (WD), Sam Perry (GD), and Captain Eboni Beckford Chambers at GK.
It was recognised by all in advance that the team needed to improve further from the quarter final against South Africa, in particular, the team needed to show from the very start the fluid attacking play that we have seen often later in the matches this last week. Step up though they did, despite the big match pressure and atmosphere, they matched Australia in early skirmishes and fought back in the first quarter a number of occasions from 4 goals down, then back to 2, but never achieved parity. There were chances, we failed to capitalise on some Australian mistakes, and on occasions turned the ball over, only to throw it back to Australia, perhaps trying too hard at this stage in the game.
The quarter ended 14 to 9 to Australia, but the game felt as though it could go either way, and England co-coaches Anna Mayes and Jess Garland opted to make no changes. The second quarter, and the Australian performance picked up, their defence forcing Harten and Allison into shooting from distance, whilst their attack combination was slick and giving few chances for Beckford Chambers to re create her brilliance of yesterday. The gap opened up to 10, and at that point a key moment, Guthrie went down injured, and following treatment, the England team substituted Sarah Jane O Sullivan (C), for Perry, with Guthrie dropping to WD.
This produced an instant response, with England outscoring Australia in the final minutes of the quarter. It ended 29 to 21 to Australia, and again it felt as though the game was very much alive and for the taking. The England defence were working incredibly hard, Francis and Guthrie were everywhere, and with O Sullivan providing real drive down the court, options for Harten at GA were opening up.
England remained unchanged again for the start of the second half, but it was Australia who stamped their authority on the match, the shooting, mobility and height of the Australian GS Basset in particular was hurting England, who started to look increasingly desperate as the lead widened. No further changes were made when Harten went down with an injury with the scores at 45 to 29, perhaps that was the point at which there would have been nothing lost by trying something different.
The quarter ended somewhat farcically, with the umpires seemingly in confusion over whether time was up, and then penalising Beckford Chambers. Words must have then been said, and England finished the quarter with Francis and Beckford Chambers stood off the court for the final goal scored by Australia. Score after 3 quarters was 51 to 31 in Australias favour.
To Englands enormous credit, the team did not give up, despite facing defeat in the game which had been a focus for a long time. Perry rejoined the action for the final quarter, with England reverting to their starting 7. The play got increasingly desperate from England towards the end, the desire and emotion written on the players faces, but so to the realisation that a better team had beaten them and controlled most of the match. Passes was thrown away time and time again in an effort to force openings through the very effective Australian defence, and though the England defence continued to work, the Australian attack was clinical, and remained that way to the end.
The tears at the end on the England faces were of disappointment and frustration rather than joy, but credit has to go to Australia, they won the match and deserved to, England didnt lose it. The final score of Australia 63 to England 42 was perhaps flattered by the large margin in the third quarter, but England can have no complaints. The better team won, and England must now re group on the day off that the top 4 teams have, before playing Jamaica in the Bronze Medal match on Thursday.
Rosie Allison:23/32 72%
Jo Harten:19/24 79%
Overall: 42/56 75%
Speaking afterwards, Jess Garland, England Co-coach reflected on the game plan the England Team had, to penetrate through the middle and avoid Australia forcing the attack wide and to expose the GK one on one with Rosie Allison using her height and power. She said: we started assertively, that was important and good to see, but we then let Australia get away with the errors they were making, but also making our own. We could have easily been level at the end of the first quarter and that would have kept the pressure on them, as it was, pressure built on us. The defence played really well, sticking to the plan to hold Australia up and prevent them getting to the circle edge, but as the pressure built, we had to go hunting more and more and space opened up and they hurt us. We are very proud of this team and what they have achieved so far and we have one more match to make sure that the tournament finishes on a high.
That match will be against Jamaica after they lost in the second semi final against New Zealand 44 to 57. New Zealand pulled away progressively throughout the match, particularly after a nasty knee injury to Romelda Aiken which resulted in her going off initially and then coming back on for the second half, but in obvious pain and severely restricted. Jamaica also lost their Goal Keeper to a knee injury, so they will hope the rest day can provide some recovery time. New Zealand were very efficient, with a quality all round game in all areas of the court, and the trans tasman clash that is to be the final should be a good netball spectacle.