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England undone as they fall to first defeat of World Cup

WING ON THE ATTACK: England's Serena Guthrie

THE ROSES fell to their first defeat of the 2015 Netball World Cup as Australia made possession count in a 51-41 victory this morning in Sydney.

Heading into the fixture having suffered a loss to New Zealand, the World Champions were in a determined mood. A combination of cross-court pressure and England passing errors allowed them to restart their attempt at an 11th title.

England now face two must-win fixtures against Wales and South Africa to qualify for the semi-finals on Saturday.
Tracey Neville decided to shake-up her starting seven from the previous match as Serena Guthrie was placed at WA with Stacey Francis taking over at WD.

The opening exchanges were unsurprisingly tense as each side made early turnovers but failed to convert. It was cagey stuff and the defence was certainly on top.

Pressure was being applied all over the court and midway through the quarter the teams remained locked at 8-8.
Eventually the Roses were punished for a loose feed into the circle. From the resulting turnover Natalie Medhurst produced a clever bounce pass into the circle for Caitlin Bassett to score. At the end of the quarter, the Diamonds had moved into a slender 12-9 lead.

With a gap to reduce, the England defence started hard in the second quarter with Eboni Beckford-Chambers impressing with her agility and Francis showing her feet are as a quick as her mind with a couple of important tips.

Despite winning possession back at regular intervals, the Roses continued to struggle in the final third and were wasteful around the circle.

An injury time-out allowed Sonia Mkoloma to replace Geva Mentor and Tamsin Greenway to enter at WA as Guthrie headed for her more usual territory of WD.

A strong end to the quarter made sure that England remained in touching distance of the world champions as they trailed 25-20 at half-time. Another switch was made for the third quarter as Helen Housby replaced Pamela Cookey in the shooting circle.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first. An early intercept from Beckford-Chambers failed to be taken to goal and combined with a Diamonds turnover, the hosts quickly went eight goals clear.

Heads refused to drop and a spirited England side continued to battle. Jo Harten was refusing to let the occasion get to her, finding the net regularly as she stood tall in the circle. With fifteen minutes to go the deficit had stretched to 39-30.

In one last attempt to disrupt the Australian attack, Mentor was re-introduced to partner Mkoloma for the final quarter.
A wonderful start piece of defensive pressure had England on the up early in the quarter. Greenway was using her body positioning well and managed to find Housby to reduce the gap to six.

The Roses needed everything to go for them and a quick set of penalties which fell in the Diamonds’ favour all but sealed our fate. Still the team battled bravely on, epitomised by Jade Clarke’s mid-air collision when tussling for the ball.

The England centurion hit the court hard but after a quick rub down, she was back up and helping the team to convert a turnover.

Basic errors were still littering the match for the visitors and once again Australia managed to win the quarter by a small margin. Over the match these small wins added up and signalled the end of England’s unbeaten run.

The tournament now turns into knockout netball for England and that first test comes up tomorrow at 7:20am in a clash with Wales.

England starting 7: GS - Harten, GA - Cookey, WA - Guthrie, C - Clarke, WD - Francis, GD - Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor

Australia starting 7: GS - Bassett, GA - Medhurst, WA - Green, C - Ravaillion, WD - Hallinan, GD - Corletto, GK – Geitz

England shooting stats: Harten: 30/34 – 88%, Cookey: 5/6 – 83% Housby: 6/9 – 67%

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