England and South Africa both confirmed their place in the Vitality Netball World Cup semi-finals today, by extending their unbeaten runs in the competition to five games.
England coach Tracey Neville chose to experiment with her line-up throughout the Roses’ clash with Trinidad and Tobago, with her much-changed team eventually running out 72-46 winners.
Trinidad and Tobago started confidently, but some outstanding defence combined with accurate shooting meant that the Roses were soon in charge of their destiny.
Trinidad and Tobago continued to offer solid resistance, particularly in an early, second-quarter rally, but England’s further tactical changes injected a greater sense of purpose, and the Roses started to dominate the scoring exchanges, successfully closing out the match.
The Calypso Girls bounced their first centre pass out beyond the sideline, allowing Harten to open the scoring, while Rachel Dunn was twice dumped on the floor in quick succession before netting England’s third goal of the game.
Good work from Eboni Usoro-Brown, amongst others, allowed England to take a commanding lead, as Harten in particular found her groove in the circle.
The crowd – England were playing on the new, one-court layout for the first time in the tournament – were in buoyant mood, cheering the Roses’ every goal as the hosts extended their lead out to 20-12 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Francesca Williams came on in place of Usoro-Brown and got an early interception. However, Rachel Dunn – affected by an elbow injury – put in a couple of wayward attempts which Trinidad and Tobago seized upon, plundering the first three goals of the quarter.
Dunn, trying to shake off the injury, was replaced by Helen Housby – a change which saw England put their foot on the gas again, taking the score back out to 29-21.
Haythornthwaite and Housby in particular were combining well, and Harten was displaying her usual accuracy in front of goal – her 30th of the game saw England 39-23 up at half time, while their defence was also gaining momentum, snuffing out the threat of Samantha Wallace as the Trinidad and Tobago goal shooter went ten minutes between goals 11 and 12.
In the second half Housby and Harten both suffered couple of rare, straightforward misses, before giving the Roses a 43-27 advantage. Trinidad and Tobago were struggling to contain the speed of England’s mid-court players with several passes going astray, but Wallace was at least now having more of an impact on the game, shooting her fifteenth goal.
However a careless shot on her part saw England move 17 goals ahead, as Harten and Housby put their slow start to the quarter behind them. England led 56-33 going into the last 15 minutes.
Dunn made a welcome return to court for the fourth quarter, and was soon back on the scoresheet. Trinidad and Tobago profited from some England uncertainty to peg the score back to 60-38, with Khalifa McCollin becoming the first of their shooters to reach the 20-goal mark.
Neville, who had already given Chelsea Pitman some game time at centre, continued to rotate from the bench, with Serena Guthrie returning to court as England experimented with different combinations.
Some typical Guthrie interceptions were replicated by the likes of Housby and Usoro-Brown as England’s lead stretched out to beyond 25, with the home fans able to applaud their side off after an eventual 72-46 win.
England’s Jo Harten said: “I thought it was patchy in places, it was far from perfect, but overall we’re happy. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of ourselves to get to this point, but now there’s another step up tomorrow and into the weekend as well.”
Of her injury, Rachel Dunn said: . “My hand went numb because of a knock to the elbow. The feeling came back, it was fine, it’s just one of those – you kind of need your hand when you’re shooting! I just took a knock but it’s all fine now.”hat victory meant that only a highly unlikely combination of results would keep England out of the semi-finals, and their last four spot was confirmed – along with South Africa’s – when the Proteas beat Uganda 67-40.
England and South Africa meet tomorrow at 8pm, with the victors there advancing to the semi-finals as group winners, to play either Australia or New Zealand, who also have a match to decide their group tomorrow.
Elsewhere in session 12, Scotland gave world number two-ranked Jamaica an early scare to lead after the first quarter, but the Sunshine Girls came back to win 67-36 and end their run of two successive defeats.
Results from session 12 matches:
Trinidad and Tobago 46-72 England (Group G)
Jamaica 67-36 Scotland (Group G)
South Africa 67-40 Uganda (Group G)
The latest preliminaries stage 2 group tables are available here.
Both Group F and Group G will conclude tomorrow, with the top two in each (Australia and New Zealand at 10:30am, and England and South Africa at 8pm) playing each other in fixtures which will determine the group winners. The results of these games will decide the make-up of the semi-finals, which take place on Saturday.
The full tournament schedule is available to view here.
Courtesy of Netball World Cup