The semi-final clash between England and New Zealand was set to be a spectacle of netball that went down to the final whistle, and it didn’t disappoint. England battled tirelessly, however the Silver Ferns slipped the ball through the net in the final second of the game to win by one, 35-34 and confirm their place in the Commonwealth Games final.
As soon as England took the first centre, it was clear that this was going to be an immense battle between the two sides. An early miss from Kadeen Corbin and widespread nerves shown across court enabled New Zealand to open an early two goal lead. Intense pressure applied around circle edge by Jade Clarke and Serena Guthrie was rewarded with a held ball decision, England converted to make the score level at 2-2 after four minutes.
Geva Mentor and Eboni Beckford-Chambers were denying the Ferns space and great off the ball movement by Sasha Corbin allowed Jo Harten to put England 5-4 ahead going into the eighth minute of play. Going into the final minute of Q1, Beckford-Chambers came in with a perfectly timed interception, but it was too late for the shooters to covert, meaning that the score at the end of the first quarter was 10-10.
England had a fantastic start to the second quarter and took a two goal lead following an athletic defensive rebound from Mentor. With the tireless defensive pressure throughout court causing errors from the Silver Ferns, England were able to capitalise, finding the space into Harten and Corbin to score. Five minutes into the second quarter, the score was 15-11.
Beckford-Chambers and Mentor’s tight defence proved difficult for Maria Tutaia and Jodi Brown; however, a held ball called on Corbin meant the Silver Ferns levelled the scoring going into the final three minutes of the first half. Another New Zealand turnover gave them the opportunity stretch ahead but tight defensive pressure and a great Mentor rebound meant that the score going into the second half was 20-19.
England Head Coach Anna Mayes made changes to the centre court with Clark and Guthrie moving to WA and WD, and Bayman taking to the court as C. With Guthrie forcing errors, Beckford-Chambers, Clarke and Corbin were able to work the ball through the New Zealand defence to increase England’s lead to three with five minutes elapsed in the second half.
Fabulous defensive pressure from Mentor and stunning movement from Harten saw England dominate the circle to sustain their lead. The ball swung from end of the end as the crowd spurred the players in red on, which enabled Mentor to force a New Zealand error.
A tip from Corbin’s attempt saw New Zealand claw their way back to be within one goal, however Mentor again denied them the opportunity to take the lead. A last ditch Harten shot agonisingly teased the net in the final few seconds but failed to drop and the score was 29-29 moving into the fourth quarter.
Going into the final 15 minutes, Harten and Corbin swapped bibs with the former taking the first goal. Tight defensive pressure was rewarded with an England turnover and a Corbin shot to make a two goal lead. With huge amounts of pressure put on the Tutaia shot by Beckford-Chambers, Clarke fond the space into Corbin through the Silver Fern defence to net. Despite the defence battling for the turnover, New Zealand closed the gap to two.
In the final ten minutes, the Silver Fern shooters were rattled by the England defence and there were countless turnovers throughout court, meaning the game really went down to the wire. England called a time out with two minutes left in the game, and Stacey Francis took to the court as GD.
New Zealand took possession in the final minute and played the ball around their attacking circle patiently trying to work a scoring opportunity. The English defence worked tirelessly for the intercept and with half a minute left it finally came.
The crowd roared England forward but the Silver Ferns were applying stern pressure in the mid-court. A loose ball in the final third was collected by Laura Langman with twenty seconds on the clock and the scores tied.
The ball was worked into the circle and Brown let fly with an attempt, it rattled out but Tutaia was on hand to grasp the rebound. A quick moment to set herself and shoot was all the experienced shooter required, the ball dropping through the net shortly before the final whistle sounded to break the hearts of those in red.
It was a phenomenal match and an incredible performance to be immensely proud of. The focus now switches to sealing a bronze medal tomorrow morning at the Hydro as we look to finish an amazing 2014 Commonwealth Games on a high.
England starting 7: GS - Harten, GA – K.Corbin, WA - S.Corbin, C - Guthrie, WD - Clarke, GD - Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
New Zealand starting 7: GS - Halpenny, GA - Brown, WA - Leota, C - Langman, WD - Henry, GD - Kopua, GK - de Bruin