England got their 2014 Commonwealth Games campaign off to a dream start with a dominant 65-25 victory over Wales earlier today. A strong defensive display was backed up by fluent work in the mid-court and good combinations in the attacking circle.
All twelve players took to the court which meant there was a duo of special moments as Sara Bayman appeared for the 50th time in an England dress and Helen Housby made her debut at international level.
The players entered the court to a rapturous reception as the travelling England support made their voices heard, to combine with the copious amount of St George’s flags on display around the venue. Their heroes did not disappoint and started the game with serious intent.
Wales were inaccurate in the final third, their rebounds being gobbled up by the expectant pairing of Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Geva Mentor. This allowed England to retain possession of the ball for long spells and to build patiently through the court. Kadeen Corbin and Jo Harten made sure possession resulted in goals. At the end of Q1 England were in command, 17-7.
It was much the same at the start of the second quarter with an unchanged seven taking to the court. Again the girls in red were turning ball over with impressive frequency and with that the lead grew. However, midway through the quarter Ursula Pritchard called a medical time-out and with that the wind seemed to be taken from the England sails.
A scrappy passage of play ensued with various calls for footwork and contact being coupled with an array of missed attempts on goal. Although the scoring had slowed, England remained in control and took a 29-10 lead into the half-time interval.
Anna Mayes made changes during the break with Bayman, Rachel Dunn and Stacey Francis all bibbing up. England managed to shrug off the slumber from the end of the first half and were firing on all cylinders once again throughout the third quarter. Dunn, looking composed at GA, was linking excellently with Harten as the scoring rate was once more upped.
The mid-court were connecting well and showing what versatility we have in the squad as Guthrie relocated to WD to allow Bayman to pull the strings at C. A tight and imposing defensive combination of Francis and Mentor restricted Welsh scoring opportunities and England were 38-15 in front heading into the final fifteen minutes.
Another chance to rotate and bring on fresh legs was used for Q4 as Ama Agbeze was the third player to take the WD bib and Housby made her debut at GA. It was a closer affair with Wales finding more success and better accuracy in their shot making.
A proud moment soon came for young shooter Housby as she nailed her first goal in the red dress and the nerves soon evaporated away as a composed finish from distance quickly doubled her England tally.
The final remaining question was could England extend the gap to 40 goals? A wonderful finish from Dunn made sure that was indeed the advantage as the final whistle sounded. Many positives were to be taken from the performance and England were able to exploit the shortcomings of their neighbours to take a very early lead at the top of Pool B.
Next up tomorrow morning is the tantalising clash against world number one, Australia. Both have recorded an opening victory and the passionate rivalry between the two sides promises to make this a must-see affair.
England starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – K.Corbin, WA – S.Corbin, C – Guthrie, WD – Clarke, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
Wales starting 7: GS – Lewis, GA – Moseley, WA – Drane, C – K.Jones, WD – N.Jones, GD – Pritchard, GK – Morgan