Jamaica
GS Jhaniele Fowler-Reid
GA Shanice Beckford
WA Khadijah Williams
C Paula Thompson
WD Vangelee Williams
GD Stacian Facey
GK Shamera Sterling

England
GS Joanne Harten
GA Helen Housby
WA Chelsea Pitman
C Serena Guthrie
WD Beth Cobden
GD Ama Agbeze
GK Geva Mentor

Umpires: Marc Henning (Australia), Michelle Phippard (Australia), Josh Bowring (Australia) (reserve)

 

It was a routine opening for Jamaica, with Fowler-Reid scoring, and Sterling taking a fairly obvious intercept on a pass to Harten. England then took advantage of a bit of luck and perhaps not enough Jamaican desperation for the ball to quickly rack up four unanswered goals. Pitman in particular was moving smartly, and Vangelee Williams had nothing but clumsy attempts to push and hold her. Guthrie wasn’t needed in her feeding role, as the other three Roses attackers connected easily. Harten and Housby shared the scoring evenly, whereas Jamaican goal attack Beckford dominated goal assists and Fowler-Reid scored all but one of the opening points. The score was 10-7 to England after eight minutes.

Sterling outplayed Harten in the first half (Photo: Marcela Massey)

For several minutes the English shooters were better wrapped up by Facey and Sterling, allowing more time for Vangellee Williams and Thompson to create chaos at the circle edge. After creating three deflections and spilled balls, Williams finally gained possession for her team, and the Jamaicans crafted the ball conscientiously to their goal shooter, sneaking ahead by one briefly, before the first quarter ended with scores locked at 15 apiece.

First up in the second quarter Sterling came out for a brilliant intercept, and Jamaica leapt ahead by two. Thompson and Guthrie were having a beautiful battle, with Guthrie’s famous pace not preventing the smart, calm Sunshine Girls veteran from taking simple cut and drives and enjoying good feeding position. The whole Jamaican team started to grow in confidence and punish England, as Harten gave an unnecessary offload to Housby which ended in another Jamaica goal. Thompson, Williams, and Beckford were now all feeding Fowler-Reid at will, and the points piled on rapidly.

Pitman and Guthrie were twice stuck behind, next to each other near the side line. Sterling made a terrific tip from behind Harten and got away with her foot being out of court, and Harten judged Guthrie’s move wrongly and pitched the ball out too easily. Straight away, the English shooter was subbed off, now seeing Housby at the back with Haythornthwaite in goal attack. Cobden also hit the bench, with Guthrie in wing defence and Clarke in centre. Jamaica lead 25-20 half way through the second quarter.

Housby started using a lot of nous, sticking mostly to the circle, and rolling, screening, and rotating well to be available. Haythornthwaite was also an option, scoring her first two shots. The scoreline ran a little up and down, but hovered around the same margin. Fowler-Reid took the ball with a variety of grabs, Mentor so close but never deflecting. Perhaps mindful of their lesser stamina and conditioning, Jamaica exchanged Dixon on for Khadijah Williams and Thomas for Thompson at centre, while England replaced their captain Agbeze with the rookie Gibson at goal defence. England were forced to play wide and use risky passes, sometimes impossible for Pitman to collect. The Sunshine Girls capped a good quarter with nice mid-range goals from Fowler-Reid, who finished the half with 26 perfect shots, ahead 33-27.

England brought on their third goal defence, Beckford-Chambers, and immediately stepped up the pressure in the centre third across their defensive transverse line. With perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm, Guthrie cleaned up her opponent and received a caution from umpire Henning. Mentor started to get involved, with two deflections and subsequent pickups from the feed of Dixon. The quarter ran goal for goal for a long period. While Housby was somewhat less dominant, Haythornthwaite started to find a lot of free space on the centre pass and in the goal circle, prompting the Jamaican coaches to bring Facey off and Ward on at goal defence. Ward kept pace with her opponent but couldn’t quieten her completely. There was huge excitement from the Roses fans as a deflected centre pass allowed them to draw to 39-41 with six minutes left in the period.

Vangelee Williams started to fall off the pace, allowing Pitman oodles of options. Clarke was solid, available for the simple but effective triangle passes around the circle edge. Williams redeemed herself in the end, pegging a 15-metre pass in to the circle, which gave Fowler-Reid her 40th goal and the team a 47-43 lead right on the buzzer.

After Fowler-Reid had a second quick chat with the umpires, the packed house of more than 7,000 were pumped for a passionate final quarter. Tracey Neville brought mercurial Harten back on, with Housby at goal attack and Haythornthwiate at wing attack. Williams and Ward swapped, while the original two feeders Khadijah Williams and Thompson came back on. Totally from nowhere, Beckford-Chambers attacked and captured a certain goal off a pass from the veteran Jamaican centre, and the crowd went nuts as the Roses were once again within a single goal. They gave an equal cheer for the heroic reaction of Beckford, collecting a tip from Mentor. Shanice Beckford kept putting on all the right moves, and Beckford-Chambers was dragged onto her and out of play.

Pitman rejoined the fray after three minutes. Both teams rode the noisy support and increased their defensive determination, causing the attackers to freeze at times, or rush their pass selection. There was a fantastic mash-up of cheers and boos as umpire Phippard denied Mentor a rebound with a contact penalty – Mentor replied by taking the very next missed shot for herself. Vangelee Williams was able to pick off two balls in the frenzy. Beckford-Chambers again featured with a tip, enabling her team to level the match at 50-all, with six minutes to go. Thompson’s injured right thigh was really troubling her, and she was replaced again by Thomas.

Only two minutes remained, and a fabulous circle-edge intercept from Ward pulled the Sunshine Girls back 53-54. Guthrie again went in too hard, taking out the body heavily, and she was issued a warning. Fowler-Reid duly converted again and the scores were level. All the midcourters threw themselves into defence, with Thomas also receiving a caution for holding Pitman. The teams ran goal-for-goal, bringing the ball through quickly until the last 30 seconds. England had a centre pass and Jamaica held them away from the goal circle until 13 seconds remaining. There was a missed shot, but when Harten pulled in the rebound, the fate of the Sunshine Girls was sealed – England scored with two seconds left, and entered the gold medal playoff for the first time in Commonwealth Games history.

The celebration was akin to England winning the Commonwealth Games (Photo: Marcela Massey)

 

England 56 def Jamaica 55

England
Jo Harten 16/18 89%
Helen Housby 29/35 83%
Natalie Haythornthwaite 11/13 85%
56/66 85%

Jamaica
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 47/50 94%
Shanice Beckford 8/9 89%
55/59 93%

 

Tracey Neville, England coach

On whether she’s completely losing her voice
“I feel like I’ve not drunk anything for five days, feeling like I do at the moment! What a comeback for our girls! I actually felt like it was the old Roses, the way we were making silly errors, at difficult points of the game where we needed to get ahead, but these girls have moved beyond. I said just now to them, as a player I could only dream to be in this situation, but I was never good enough. It’s just great to live my dream through these.”

On the impact of Beckford-Chambers at goal defence in the second half
“We wanted to go hard on that first phase, but what we wanted from Eboni, which we’ve seen when we last played Jamaica, was we wanted ball lifted. Serena works better in the air, Geva works better in the air. At the time, the balls were coming in at a really good level for Jhaniele to take. We needed to change that up, and I think Eboni, just her impact, and keep winning that ball back, what I’d LIKE us to do is be more clinical when we do win ball back.”

On what she said to change the team at half time
“To be honest, I was really upset with the way they presented themselves in that first half. I don’t think any point in this international calendar they’ve almost come out and started against a team very very well. I actually said to ‘em at half time, you know what? I actually don’t care how this scoreboard goes – I want you to finish like a Rose, go hard, win this last quarter, you finish how you started this tournament. And for me, it won ‘em the game.”

On why Harten was struggling, benched, and reintroduced
“Jo wasn’t getting the ball she wanted, and the team were struggling to find her. She wasn’t creating the movement and the dynamicness (sic) in the circle. We always said that we needed to wear the Jamaicans down, so getting Nat on at goal attack, and Helen, just created a little bit of wear and tear on ‘em. In that last quarter we were debating whether to put her on or not, and just that experience, that extra height in the circle, and she shot the winning goal.”

 

Jo Harten

“You know what, I felt sick for the last three days, and I came on and had pretty much a shocker of a start, which is never good in a semi final. Tracey sent me off – had every right to – I had to just watch the game, watch my opponent a little bit, see where I could improve, and hopefully I did that when I came back on, and have some composure under the hoop”

Have you ever shot such an important goal in your career as the winner?
“Probably not actually, and I practise that shot every single day of my life, so, too right I should score that!”

On the pathway to getting here after many years of toil
“Firstly, it means so much to the people that’ve worked their butts off in Loughborough, we’ve got a great program, we’re really lucky that we’ve got some excellent Sport England funding, and we’re National Lottery funded, that has all put us in this position, so we’re very thankful for the British public for allowing us to be out here playing in these crunch matches, and finishing off for them.”

“To win the gold medal it takes clinical performance, whoever you’re playing. THAT is a really good game for us to go into a final, it shows grit and determination, it shows anything can happen. For us it’s about finishing off when we get the turnover, making every ball count.”

 

Helen Housby

“I can’t put it into words, I’m sorry, I’m crying! That’s been coming a long time, a lot of girls in this group’ve been trying to get into a final for so many years – Geva, it’s her fifth Commonwealth Games. I just can’t put into words how much this means to this team.”

“There’s always going to be (shooting) wobbles when they’ve got a great defence like that. They put pressure on from the first minute. For us it was about being clinical with the turnover, and in the first half, I don’t think we were. But in the second half I thought the hustle and the defence and putting it away were just so good against a lot of pressure. Once we’d got rid of the nerves, we came out fighting, and I thought we did ourselves justice.”

On what the coach said at half time when suddenly down by six
“There was a lot of strong words! I’m not going to repeat them, they’re not exactly (politically correct)! She just said we’re still in this game, and we know we can do anything if we implement the game plan. I mean, in that second half we came out and did it, and bit by bit we won it back. I can’t believe it right now!”

On her feelings on Harten being reintroduced for the last quarter
“I’ve looked up to Jo for so many years, and she’s a really good friend of mine, so it was incredible to see her out on court with me. She’s one of the older girls now, she’s been trying to get into a final for such a long time, and I’m just so happy that we get to do it together.”

Housby embraces coach Tracey Neville (Photo: Marcela Massey)

 

Sasher Henry, Jamaican coach

“A bit disappointed, but I think the girls played well for almost 60 minutes of the game. It’s a pity that we were ahead and made some silly turnovers that cost us the game, but it’s a learning process for us again.”

You had a big lead for a while, what was the difference?
“At some point, I think we were not being consistent in our attack, we were trying to force the long ones. We decided we were going to work the ball down to make it easier, so I think that was a little bit of our big difference tonight.”

You made a lot of changes, what was the reason behind them?
“Some of the girls got winded, some of the legs got tired. We have fresh legs that go on to do the job so we didn’t want anybody out on the court very weary and still being on the court. So we wanted to get fresh legs, we knew would do the damage.”

What is Paula Thompson’s injury?
“She got a hit in the thigh, I don’t think it’s a major injury. She had an ankle so that’s just a simple something that we’ll sort out for tomorrow’s game.”

How do you regroup for the bronze medal match tomorrow?
“I think we have to look into this game and see where we went wrong. We gave away this game tonight. I think that they played strong, so if we eliminate the errors that we did today, tomorrow we’ll have a better game.”

 

Eboni Beckford-Chambers

“We’re trying to savour this moment, of course we’ll watch the next game to see who we get. But in terms of who we get, we’re prepared for both, so let’s see who wins.”

Is it an advantage having trained against Caitlin Bassett?
“It’s always a hot contest between us two, we both know each other’s game inside out. But if we do meet Australia in the final, we’re going to have to beat them all over the court. Their defence is so strong, their midcourt are running all across as their engine and their shooters are on form. So we’re really going to have to bring our A game tomorrow, but like I said, we’re prepared.”

Is Australia beatable?
“It’s about us and keeping the belief. They are number one in the world for a reason, so they’re definitely going to be a tough outfit. But today we showed how epic we can be when we’re down. We have the confidence, we have the belief, we have the bench and the starting seven. We’re going to go out there, put your best foot forward, four quarters of netball, let’s see what medal we come away with.”

How did you keep calm on court to pick up those intercepts in the last quarter?
“I just turned 30 this year and I’m at a really good place in my life and I think in terms of that calmness, I think it’s translating into my netball. In terms of the training we’ve done over the last six weeks, I think we really built confidence in those combinations, so it’s really about just trusting in the process. Tracey said to us she just wants us to do it quarter-by-quarter. We never gave up belief in that last quarter and the result showed, so more of the same tomorrow.”