It was a day of mixed fortunes for England as the Fast5 Netball World Series got underway in New Zealand. Two wins and a loss means that there is still much to be decided heading into the final day.
The Fives made a dream start to the competition as they overpowered South Africa by an emphatic 44-22 score line. In the opening quarter Jo Harten struggled to find her range but with rolling subs allowed in Fast5, her attacking teammates took up the mantle. Rachel Dunn and Rosie Allison both looked fluent but it was the excellent start from Kadeen Corbin that had England bouncing early on. Eboni Beckford-Chambers was imperious in defence as the Proteas were restricted to just four goals in the opening half as the Fives led 13-4.
South Africa took their Powerplay in Q3 and although they won the quarter by five, Beckford-Chambers and Sam Cook were on damage limitation. With the Powerplay advantage in England’s favour for the final quarter, an on-song Harten eased the Fives clear.
Australia put in a formidable performance to crush Jamaica and they followed this up with a comfortable win over South Africa later in the day. The runners-up from last year were staking their claim for this year’s title and the reigning champs would follow suit.
New Zealand produced a fabulous attacking display to dispatch Malawi before coming up against the Fives. With the new format of the competition seeing semi-finals abolished this year, New Zealand vs England was a key contest.
England started the better and edged the first quarter by a goal with Dunn in fine form. A trio of three point goals followed from Harten in Q2 and at the interval the visitors had moved into a 17-10 lead. The Fast5 Ferns took the Powerplay in the third quarter and Grace Rasmussen practically wiped out the deficit in one foul swoop or alternatively, if you are a kiwi, one beautiful long range Super Shot. The double points system allowed the hosts to dominate the quarter and extend into a 26-20 advantage.
However, the final quarter saw the roles reversed with England taking their Powerplay. A pair of early Super Shots just missed their target and with a couple of minutes remaining the Fives still trailed by four. A flurry of shots from range refused to drop and the clock ultimately ran down on the England charge as they succumbed to a 30-26 defeat.
This meant that the fixture against Malawi was now pivotal, a loss would all but end the Fives hopes of progressing to the final.
It was an open game from the start with Allison and Harten leading the England side with consistent scoring. Serena Guthrie was working tirelessly in the mid-court to provide her shooters with shooting opportunities.
A wonderful team effort restricted the scoring chances for the Queens during their second quarter Powerplay and at the interval the scores were level at 20-20. Despite having the advantage of double points in the third quarter, England failed to pull clear of their lower ranked opponents and the lead was an insecure three goals with six minutes remaining.
Harten did her best to calm the nerves with a fluent three point Super Shot while Allison remained composed to net from the outer circle. Although Malawi did fight back in the final moments, England had done enough and held on for the win.
Elsewhere, it was a good day for New Zealand who maintained a 100% record. Australia and Jamaica picked up two wins each and join England on four points heading into tomorrow’s play.
Highlights from England fixtures will be available to view later today on the Sky Sports website.
England Netball will be reporting live on day two from 11pm this evening and you can follow the latest updates on their official twitter and facebook pages.