England produced a fantastic display in Liverpool this afternoon to stroll to a 70-25 win over Wales at the Echo Arena.
The result was a fitting tribute to the hosts’ Goalkeeper Geva Mentor, who was collecting her 100th cap after being named in the starting seven.
Led out by our newest centurion, England and Mentor were offered a standing ovation by the home crowd as they took to the court. Wales had brought along with them a particularly noisy section of support as they embraced their opportunity as last minute stand-ins for Malawi.
The visitors got the game underway but an immediate turnover saw Jo Harten sink the opening goal of the game. Wales were struggling to take the ball through to goal and a fast starting England team were punishing their errors with clinical accuracy.
After five minutes, England were five clear. Not to be outdone by her celebrated defensive partner, Eboni Beckford-Chambers was providing wonderful support at GD and the combined pressure made sure that the ladies in red remained clear, 15-7 after the opening exchanges.
No substitutions were forthcoming at the start of the second quarter with the original seven keeping their positions.
In contrast to the opening minutes of the match, Q2 was a slow burning affair. England were struggling to find their passing range with several balls sailing over their intended target.
However, the home defence remained in control and the extending gap gave confidence to the attacking end. Quick passing around the circle edge allowed Jade Clarke to find Rachel Dunn who effortlessly slotted home.
The ever-blossoming partnership between the English defensive duo was in full show as Mentor and Beckford-Chambers applied pressure to force held ball on several occasions. At half-time the home side held a sizable 33-12 advantage.
The interval gave England a chance to alter their personnel on court. Tamsin Greenway made her return in an England dress at WA while Kadeen Corbin came into GA, Stacey Francis moved to WD and Ama Agbeze took the GD bib.
Fantastic vision from Francis enabled her to fire a rocket feed into Harten who got the second half scoring underway. Agbeze and Bayman were working brilliantly and combined to pick off a bounce pass. The resultant converted turnover increased the lead to 44-13.
Determined to grab her moment in the spotlight, Francis draw applause from the crowd with an exceptional retrieval and pass as the ball was heading off court, a move she has made her own.
The new combinations were linking instantly and Wales were unable to land any telling blows on a dominant England team. With fifteen minutes to go, the hosts led 56-17.
A final cheer for the crowd was to be had in the final quarter as co-captain Pamela Cookey made her return from injury and slotted back into her traditional GA position. Her first goal was greeted with the kind of applause usually reserved for a last minute winner.
The visitors were rocked and had little in way of response although they did fight valiantly until the final whistle. England kept up the pressure to improve upon an already eye-catching turnover rate and finish the game as comfortable winners.
Focus now switches to The Copper Box in London on Wednesday evening and the first clash against Malawi. A fabulous start to the December internationals has been secured but it will mean little if it isn’t followed up in three days’ time.
The final word must go to the hero of the day, Mentor. The fact that so many in attendance stayed on after the final whistle to celebrate in her presentation says so much about how well respected the England defender is.
It was an England display which reflected the best in both the team and in Mentor; it was a performance full of steely determination, precision and above all - class.
England starting 7: GS - Harten, GA - Dunn, WA - S.Corbin, C - Clarke, WD - Bayman, GD - Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
Wales starting 7: GS - Lewis, GA - Llewelyn, WA - Dyke, C - Drane, WD - Jones, GD - Williams, GK – Kidner
Umpires: Terrence Peart and Josh Bowring with Kate Wright as reserve