World Youth Netball Championships
Bronze Medal match – England 42 vs. Jamaica 48
So the giants of Northern Hemisphere netball meet once again in a battle for bronze. This has been a repetitive theme over the past few years, the 2003 and 2007 World Championships (senior) and the Commonwealth Games Melbourne (2006). All of these games have been tight close affairs, and here in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, we have just experienced another classic in this series of matches.
Both teams showed changed starting line ups from their semi-final matches, Jamaica leaving Romelda Aiken on the bench (was that knee injury still an issue?) and England starting with: Jo Harten (GS), Monique Wood (GA), Katy Rose (WA), Sarah Jane O Sullivan (C), Serena Guthrie (WD), Stacey Francis (GD), and Captain Eboni Beckford Chambers at GK.
Jamaica was fastest out of the blocks (Jamaicans seem good at that these days), taking a brief lead, before the England machine started purring. The England defence was magnificent from the very start, Eboni Beckford Chambers, who has got better and better as these championships have progressed, was combining brilliantly with Stacey Francis to pressure the Jamaican attack which was still highly effective without Aiken. The defence created many turn overs, and there were just a few chances where England lost the ball again, reducing the impact of the defensive effort. Jo Harten was looking her deadly best back at GS and the combination with Monique Wood was working effectively. The mid court, well they have worked tirelessly all tournament, and nothing changed here, it was a great effort all round.
The quarter ended 11 each, with both sides looking good and confident and the match already had that feeling of one that would go all the way. England switched Harten and Woods at the break, with everyone else staying in the same positions, but Jamaica responded to the England performance by bringing Romelda Aiken on at GS. Her knee heavily strapped, the performance that was to follow, and the battle that she had with Beckford Chambers in particular suggests that the injury is not too serious.
The game continued neck and neck, until Jamaica called an injury time break at 20 – 22 up, but it was England who made the change with Perry coming on at WD, Guthrie moving forward to centre, and O Sullivan to WA. The change perhaps disrupted England a little, and Jamaica squeezed out a 21 to 26 lead at half time. The feature of the match though was the contest between Romelda Aiken, twice voted most valuable player (at senior level!) in the trans-tasman ANZ Championships, and Eboni Beckford Chambers the England GK. Time and time again, long high bombs were sent towards Aiken, and time after time, Eboni rose to the challenge, tipping them away and forcing Aiken into errors, or at least making her afternoon far from comfortable. It was a captains effort from Beckford Chambers and the images will live long with those who witnessed it.
For the third quarter, England reverted to the starting 7, with Wood remaining at GS, and Harten at GA. From an England perspective, the injury did not seem to be restricting Aiken badly at all, so the game continued in a similar vein. England picked up the pace in the quarter, and with stunning effort from the whole team, urged on by the bench and a loud crowd wanting to see a tight finish, England drew level at 32 each before finishing the quarter just behind at 32 – 34.
No changes for the start of the final quarter from England, and it continued neck and neck with battles all over the court, but with the game being played in a very good natured way. Guthrie took the greatest ovation when being sent backwards over a Jamaican player, she calmly turned it into a one-handed flick-back and landed on her feet.
Key moments seemed to happen with 7 minutes left on the clock, a brilliant combination by Beckford Chambers and Guthrie, both in the air and out of court but retaining possession, was followed by a game finishing injury to Jo Harten. Harten has worked tirelessly all competition, leading the line and always expected to deliver constantly. What looked like a foot injury finished her game early, however, Ella Clark then joined the fray, that’s a tough environment to be thrown into, but she responded! Clark instantly started taking rebounds, perhaps a weakness until then for England when shots had gone astray and also showed her instinctive basketball skills to slot the ball in whilst falling out of court.
It was Jamaica who had the upper hand though, with a lead that remained about three, until the end where an increasingly desperate England sought the elusive magic to turn the game round. It was not to be, and a final score of England 42 Jamaica 48 destroyed the medal dreams of this young England team. The detailed analysis can come later and we will follow this report with reaction from players and coaches, and some great news about our contingent of English Officials out here and how well they have done. From the side line everyone was saying there was little between the top 4 teams here, and you are left with that impression after this match.
England appointed a young co-coaching team to this U21 Squad and their efforts (and learning curve) have been immense and admirable throughout the last 2 years. The athletes have committed totally to the programme and have improved markedly, as both individuals and as a team. At the end of the day sport is competitive, and losing has to go along with that. The tears at the end showed how much this team wanted success here, that goes for the management as much as the players, but it was just not to be.
What they, and we have to remember, is that this has been the most fantastic learning experience. The players will be hungrier for success in the future, two of this squad are eligible (young enough) for this event in 4 years time, and many will graduate into the England senior squad. When they get there the challenges are the same, England has to beat Australia in semi-finals and Jamaica anytime we play them. It won’t be easy, but this group will remember today, and will take the lessons with them into the next stage of the journey.
IFNA World Youth Netball Championships Grand Final - Gold Medal Match
Australia 64 New Zealand 46
More news and reaction will follow shortly......
photos Janos Schmidt