English supporters raised the roof of London’s Copper Box this evening, after the home side came from behind to take a thrilling 64-57 victory over New Zealand in their Quad Series encounter.

Trailing by six goals going into the final period of regular time, Tracey Neville’s side dug deep to force errors from the Silver Ferns, and won the final quarter 12 goals to six to take the game into extra time.

Throughout the match, England refused to bow to pressure, which in previous games would have seen them buckle and lose focus. At the heart of the victory was a dogged and dynamic defensive performance, led by Geva Mentor. Mentor once again showed world class form to restrict Bailey Mes to only two goals for the final quarter and create numerous turnovers during extra time to restart the England attack.

In fact, England’s defensive stops came from throughout the court, with Helen Housby, Jade Clarke and player of the match Serena Guthrie all contributing turnovers at vital points in the game.

The game started at breakneck speed and went goal for goal until New Zealand’s shooting machine, Maria Folau cut loose midway through the first period with a string of trade mark long range efforts. England refused to lose focus and with Chelsea Pitman, Clarke and Guthrie working tirelessly in midcourt, the home side stayed in touch trailing by only four goals at the first interval.

Guthrie ever present on the circle edge to support Housby and Corbin in attack and backing up her defenders to snatch vital interceptions to disrupt the Ferns’ attacking flow. Mentor worked hard with Ama Agbeze to deny Mes space under the post for her trademark aerial game but this allowed Folau to drive around the top of the circle and shoot from range.

The home side refused to cower to New Zealand’s midcourt press and worked the ball patiently forwards time and again, with Guthrie at the heart of the action throughout.

The Ferns pressed on in the third quarter with Folau using all her guile and experience to keep Agbeze at full stretch, while netting a string of impressive long bombs. The Kiwi defence forced the English feed to the circle to come from the pockets, giving Katrina Grant and Temalisi Fakahokatau the chance to intercept and despite New Zealand winning the quarter 15-8, the crowd still sensed England had an opportunity to claim the win.

Tracey Neville introduced Eboni Beckford Chambers and Beth Cobden at the start of the final period, in a move aimed at creating turnovers – and the ball started to come England’s way. Both took intercepts in the first three minutes of the quarter and England’s shooting end took the time to ensure their shots dropped when it counted.

Housby took two key intercepts in the midcourt and was backed up by steals from Beckford Chambers, Cobden and the ever effective Mentor, allowing England to claim the lead with three minutes remaining.

Corbin had a shot to take the win, but missed. With the scores tied at 49-all after sixty minutes, extra time took place for the second consecutive time in a northern hemisphere Quad Series match.

England created a box defensive pattern in the Kiwi attack end to try and force circle feeds out to the sideline. The tactic worked with both Mentor and Beckford Chambers able to snag loose balls as they came in to the circle. Mes and Folau were restricted to only five shots during the first extra time period and the impetus swung to England.

Housby found momentum and pace once more to drive confidently into the circle and with Corbin netting the chances that game her way, the Ferns had no effective response.

With one eye on the upcoming Commonwealth Games, and a scheduled meeting between the two teams in Pool B, the 64-57 win will give England some well-earned bragging rights.

Roses coach Tracey Neville said after the match: “This is only the start. There’s still plenty of hard work to do ahead of the Commonwealth Games and Liverpool 2019. I’m so proud of all the team for the way that they finished this match, ably supported by the crowd – our eighth player – and it was good to scrap our way to the victory. All the teams at the top of world netball are getting better and we need to have a reality check. There are plenty of tough contests to come.”

None will be tougher than facing Australia at the Copper Box on Monday night, after the World Cup holders were far from convincing in defeating South Africa. The stage is set for a thriller.

 

England 64 def New Zealand 57
(12-16, 29-28, 37-43, 49-49, ET 64-57)

Player of the match: Serena Guthrie (England)

 

Starting line ups

England
GS Corbin
GA Housby
WA Pitman
C Guthrie
WD Clarke
GD Agbeze
GK Mentor
Changes: Q4 WD Cobden, GD Beckford Chambers

New Zealand
GS Mes
GA Folau
WA Kara
C Sinclair
WD Cullen
GD Grant
GK Fakahokotau
Changes: Q3 WA Francois, Q4 WA Kara, C Francois, ET2 C Sinclair

 

England
Corbin 28/33 85%
Housby 36/42 86%
64/75 85%

New Zealand
Mes 22/26 85%
Folau 35/38 92%
57/64 89%

 

Cover image: Simon Leonard