A capacity crowd at the Copper Box in London saw England get off to a fantastic start in their two match Series against Malawi tonight, as they secured a fantastic 68-36 victory.
The fans flocked to the capital to revel in a night of netball as they were first treated to a wonderful celebrity fixture, which helped to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. That proved to be but a tantalising starter for the sumptuous main course which followed.
Ready to roar on their heroes in red, the vociferous support was initially quelled as Malawi started the stronger. An immediate flurry of turnovers saw The Queens move into an early lead. England quickly shook off the rustiness and began to find their rhythm through court. Jade Clarke and Tamsin Greenway were moving the ball sweetly around the circle, allowing Rachel Dunn and Jo Harten to apply the finishing touches.
Source: backpage images
With the advantage now regained, the hosts started to dominate proceedings and at the end of the first quarter, had stretched their lead to 13-6.
Anybody who decided to pop out for refreshments during the break had to be quick to return to their seats as England started the second quarter in blistering fashion. An increase in the tempo was forcing their African opponents into sloppy errors and England were clinical in their punishment. The opening five minutes saw the home side score eleven goals without reply.
It was always going to be hard to maintain such a ferocious pace and Malawi were able to regain a foothold in the half by recycling the ball nicely in the mid-court and frustrating the England attack. The damage however, had been done and at half-time England were in a commanding 35-19 lead.
For the second occasion in as many matches, the interval allowed the hosts to shake things up in terms of players on court. Sasha and Kadeen Corbin were introduced with Stacey Francis taking the GD bib, moving Eboni Beckford-Chambers back into GK.
It was a much tighter affair in the third quarter as the teams went goal for goal for much of the period. With England in danger of cruising to victory, Harten added some impetus with some typically passionate play and accurate shooting. The only obstacle in the way for the Essex-born star was a tight net, which required a quick stretch via a ladder for play to continue and for Harten to continue her hot streak. At the end of the third quarter the hosts were 52-31 in front.
The fourth quarter was another chance for co-captain Pamela Cookey to continue her recovery from injury as she took over at GA with Kadeen Corbin switching to GS.
Malawi were looking a forlorn team in the final quarter, in the knowledge that a comeback was now beyond them. England remained in control and drew loud applause from the crowd with some mouth-watering attacking play. One particular highlight was a delightful bounce feed from Francis into the circle; Cookey and Corbin combined to give the move its deserved gloss.
A last ditch score rounded off a fine night’s work and gave England a 1-0 lead heading into the second and final match of the Series in Worcester on Saturday afternoon.
Jade Clarke was named Player of the Match and Serena Guthrie was awarded her 50th cap.
England starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – Dunn, WA – Greenway, C – Clarke, WD – Bayman, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
Malawi starting 7: GS – Ngwira, GA – Simtowe, WA – Kumwenda, C – Dambo, WD – Mwafulirwa, GD – Mtukule, GK – Vikhumbo
Umpires: Josh Bowring and Kate Wright with Terrence Peart as reserve