England maintained their perfect 2015 Netball World Cup record with a tense 54-50 victory over Jamaica at an emotionally charged Allphones Arena in Sydney earlier today.
As is always the case between these two nations, it was a hard fought battle which could have gone either way deep into the final quarter. At the crucial time, England kept their composure and prevailed to head to the summit of Pool B.
Before the teams commenced their warm-up, the 21,000 seat venue fell silent as the competition paid its respects to Tracey Neville and her family ahead of the match.
The Roses head coach had named the same starting seven which took to the court against Scotland as England looked to gain revenge over a side that had beaten them in three of their last four encounters.
It was a cagey start to the game with both sides looking tentative in possession. The teams remained within one goal of each other up until the final moments of the quarter.
A rare miss from Jo Harten was rebounded by the Jamaican defence and they were able to charge through the court to convert and take a 14-11 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
England responded well at the start of the second quarter with Jade Clarke using her pace to time a wonderful drive into space. A quick offload into Harten got the Roses scoring back underway.
The intensity and physicality of the match stepped up as the half wore on with Serena Guthrie putting her body on the line for the cause.
Although at one stage England had reduced the gap to three, another late surge in the quarter saw Jamaica take the momentum into half-time with a 28-23 advantage.
The line-up was freshened during the interval with Sonia Mkoloma and Helen Housby entering the action and Eboni Beckford-Chambers switching to GK.
In-roads were frequently being made into the deficit but each time England threatened to level, a mistake or Jamaican turnover would halt the charge.
With time running out in the third quarter Mkoloma and Beckford-Chambers combined to steal the ball and Housby finally levelled.
The Sunshine Girls were rattled and when Guthrie piled on the pressure in the mid-court, they could only find the side line. In the blink of an eye the Roses had turned things round, Harten making it 39-37 heading into the final quarter.
Any lingering doubts from last year’s tight losses were soon extinguished as Tamsin Greenway helped to control the tempo in the final third for the England attack to keep the team scoring consistently off centre-pass.
Tight defence and clever recycling of the ball in the mid-court made sure that England held Jamaica while seeing out the remaining minutes of the game.
On the final whistle the remarkably loud Roses support in the crowd erupted with delight. The players calmly congratulated their opponents on one incredibly hard fought match. There’s another game to win tomorrow.
England starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – Cookey, WA – Greenway, C – Clarke, WD – Guthrie, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
Jamaica starting 7: GS – Aiken, GA – Beckford, WA – K.Williams, C – Thompson, WD – Henry, GD – V.Williams, GK – Facey
England shooting stats: Harten: 36/44 – 82% Cookey: 6/8 – 75% Housby: 12/14 – 86%