England's netballers stunned World and Commonwealth champions New Zealand with a dominant display of netball packed with flair and control to defeat them 50-45 in front of a packed house at the MEN Arena this evening.
From the first whistle, England's game was fluid and accurate, with some lightning fast interplay between centre courters Newton, Clarke and Atkinson. Mkoloma and Mentor restricted Kiwi GS Irene van Dyk to only six shots for the quarter while Brownfield converted every opportunity that came her way, ending the quarter with 14/14. At the end of 15 minutes, the score was 19-9 in England's favour.
As expected, the world champions came out strongly in the second quarter, but with Brownfield and Cookey unphased by the whirling arms of Scarlett and the aerial expertise of de Bruin, the home side stayed in front. Clarke was tireless in the centre court, offering and offering again as England drove the ball swiftly through the Kiwi defence, and with Atkinson continuing to feed from the circle edge, England maintained control to lead 29-20 at half time.
New Zealand came out in determined form for the second half, and with their defence effectively smothering the ball carrier in the England attack, they clawed three goals back at the start of the quarter. England settled the ship with a goal from Cookey. Newton, Mkoloma and Mentor pushed the Kiwis all the way but with Van Dyk now settled, the game was now well and truly on. Van Dyk missed her first shot of the game with three minutes of the period remaining, and with Cookey and Dunn, on the court for Brownfield at GS, the quarter ended 38-33 in England's favour.
And so to the final quarter. After trading early goals, Van Dyk slotted three in a row, and with Langman taking two key interceptions, the gap closed to two (40-38). The crowd raised the decibel level, and England responded. Cookey netted three key goals, and with Clarke taking two crucial interceptions, England kept their momentum. New Zealand threatened once more, but England captain Newton took an interception on the Kiwi circle edge which kept the English team in the hunt. With the crowd sensing a shock, England raised their game once again, and with a minute remaining stepped up the pressure once again. Mkoloma blocked a Van Dyk shot under the post, and with the crowd on its feet, England registered only their second ever victory against New Zealand.
Commenting after the game, coach Marg Caldow was thrilled with the result: "The team has been training hard, and putting in some good performances on the practice court. It's fantastic that they have now put it into practice in a match, and it was the sign of a really classy performance that, when the pressure was on, they absorbed the pressure and then stepped up another gear. There is still much more work to do, but I am thrilled with the result. What a great evening!"
Starting line ups:
England: GS Brownfield, GA Cookey, WA Atkinson, C Clarke, WD Newton (capt), GD Mkoloma, GK Mentor
Changes/substitutions: 3rd Q: GS Dunn (sub Brownfield, inj)
New Zealand: GS van Dyk, GA Te Huna, WA Wilson, C George, WD Langman, GD de Bruin, GK Scarlett
Changes/substitutions: 2nd Q: following injury time out GD Henry (sub for De Bruin), GK Williams (sub for Scarlett)
England: Brownfield 22/26, Cookey 20/24, Dunn 8/10
New Zealand: te Huna 8/12 van Dyk 37/38
photo Getty Images
Photo: Rémy Gros