ENGLAND 26-25 AUSTRALIA
Q4: 26-25 (Powerplay both teams = double points)
There was nothing between England and Australia when they met in the round-robin stage of the CSE World Netball Series in Liverpool. That could be classed as a great result for the Aussies at first glance a young, untried side. Don’t be fooled, youthful they may be and unfamiliar the faces to international fans, but these ANZ players are the FastNet Diamonds who have been focusing hard and fast on this competition without the distraction of the Commonwealth Games.
England took first centre and moved one up despite a less than fluid start. This was a physical competition across all thirds, Tamsin Greenway among the players to hit the deck in the first six minutes of the game. Stacey Francis and Sonia Mkoloma were making it hard work for Aussie shooter Kate Beveridge and snatched a couple of important turnovers that gave the host-side a 6-3 lead at the first quarter break.
A turnover from the first centre of the 2nd quarter made the gap 4 points before a glitch on the England circle edge allowed the green and gold to retake possession and pull two goals straight back. It was a touch calmer on court for a while before the squeaking of trainers on the court surface was racked up again. Serena Guthrie was unlucky not to benefit from a spectacular tip in the defensive third. Australia kept up the pressure and managed to reduce the gap by one. At half-time it was 10-8 to England.
England have been calling their PowerPlay into action in the third quarter of most of these FastNet matches and when team-manager Liz Bloor chose to loiter by the big red button a game of brinkmanship began as her Aussie opposite number Donna Monteath flanked her every move - but no Powerplay in this one. It was by far the quickest quarter of the match so far and with two turnovers Australia were able to close the gap to one goal. England goal shooter Jo Harten had her eye in for the large part of the 6 minutes but when it came to a double-pointer penalty attempt at the end couldn’t quite lift the ball into the net. With one quarter to play and heading into Power Play mode just one goal kept England ahead of Australia 16-15.
Double-points for goals makes for a nerve-wracking quarter for the fans, I have no idea how it makes the players feel. Every unsuccessful shot takes on new significance and Australia went ahead with their first shot only for first Pam Cookey and then Jo Harten to miss their efforts. It was salvaged by a mid-court turnover but for the next minute or so it was goal for goal. At 24-23 Sonia Mkoloma and Stacey Francis shut out the Green and Gold attackers under the post turning the ball over allowing the conversion at the other end to make it 26-23. But even as the clock ticked down there was no let up. Australia with possession closed the gap again to one point. Into the dying seconds England had the ball in their end and played it into the circle and while there was no goal forthcoming the final whistle was blown taking the England girls into the final; the score England 26 Australia 25.
At the end of the game long-time England co-captain Sonia Mkoloma was presented with a medal marking her 100th cap earned on duty in Delhi.
New Zealand will be their opponents in the Final after the Silver Ferns ended Jamaica’s unbeaten run in the competition, with a 31-28 semi-final win.
England starting 7: GS Louisa Brownfield, GA Pamela Cookey, WA Tamsin Greenway, C Karen Atkinson (captain), WD Serena Guthrie GD Stacey Francis, GK Sonia Mkoloma
Bench: Jo Harten, Rachel Dunn, Sasha Corbin, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Lindsay Keable.
Umpires: Bobbi Brown (NZ) Mandy Nottingham (NZ) with 3rd official Annie Kloppers (SA)