It was being billed as the must-see clash in the pool stage of the 2014 Commonwealth Games as England took on the reigning world champions. Many believed that it was going to be a game that went down to the final whistle, and it didn't disappoint as Australia edged to the narrowest of 49-48 victories.
England had led for the majority on the match with strong defence being backed up by some sublime skill and work rate in the mid-court. Kadeen Corbin and Jo Harten made a composed shooting combination as the ladies in red looked the stronger side.
A single goal lead at half-time was extended to three with fifteen minutes to go. A typically strong fight back from the Australian Diamonds saw the game levelled with minutes to go. England had centre-pass advantage as the game went goal for goal. Then with 40 seconds to go, the imperious Harten saw an attempt flirt with the net but bounce out; Australia took possession and converted their turnover, Caitlin Bassett scoring the winner.
A lightning quick turnover from Serena Guthrie had England back on the attack but before an equaliser could be attempted the final whistle had blown. A gripping match was rightly rewarded a standing ovation by the capacity crowd at the SECC as the teams headed from the court.
England made a cracking start, with Jo Harten showing her circle dominance punishing any mistakes made by the Diamonds, allowing England to take an early 5-2 lead. The incessant pressure from Australia was matched by Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Geva Mentor connecting brilliantly in the defensive circle, allowing turnovers from Guthrie and Jade Clarke to flow through to Harten.
With five minutes left in the opening quarter, a narrow miss by Kadeen Corbin gave Australia the chance to reduce the gap to10-8 with five minutes to go. Harten’s composed shooting proved difficult for the Laura Geitz, allowing England to further extend their lead. A quick Corbin double stretched the lead at the end of the first quarter to 16-10.
There were no changes to the line-up at the start of the second quarter. It was clear that the Diamonds were not going to make this easy, as the flew out of the blocks. An unlucky out of court call gave Australia the chance to score, before Mentor flew in for a beautifully timed interception giving Harten chance to score.
The first goal for England to start off the second quarter was made by Corbin, followed quickly by a goal from Harten. The Diamonds pushed again and their constant pressure closed the lead to three, 23-20 with five minutes to go.
Bianca Chatfield showed her class with a flying interception, the converted turnover putting Australia within one of England. Exceptional tips from Mentor when we needed them most, and stunning connections between the Corbin sisters saw the ball brought down court beautifully. However, once more Australia responded quickly with a mid-air shot, bridging the gap once more to 27-26 at half-time.
Sara Bayman took to the court in place of Clarke at WD for Q3 which got underway with a Harten goal. An excellent steal from Guthrie and dominant circle rotations saw Corbin’s shot sneak through the net, before another quick Harten goal to take lead to 32-28 after five minutes of the second half.
With tension running high, there was physical contest with both sides showing full passion on court. Mentor showed her style by tipping overhead shooter to shooter feeds, supported with constant pressure from Beckford-Chambers. This gave England the impetus to attack and through another Harten long range beauty, the lead was out to 39-36 with just one quarter remaining..
The final quarter saw England take to the court unchanged. A quick straight line release from Sasha to Kadeen Corbin, which was played laterally to Guthrie resulted in her recieving an arm to the face as Layton tried to get a tip. The intensity and physicality refused to give up.
After five minutes, the Diamonds had narrowed the gap to just two; however, they were hot on England’s heels and with a beautiful turnover, they levelled the scores. With nine minutes remaining we were still all square at 42 all. England then conceded ball from their own centre-pass, allowing Diamonds take the lead. With Mentor and Beckford-Chambers being fingertips from interceptions, the Australian shooters were able to sink their close range shots.
An England turnover allowed Anna Mayes’ team to tie things up at 47-47 and they were now applying immense pressure throughout court. The crowd were going wild to spur on England as the game remained on centre-pass in the closing stages. Heading into the final minute nothing separated the teams.
An Australia goal had the match tied but England had the centre-pass. A swift move down the left side saw Harten in position for a tricky attempt from the side of the circle. Devastatingly the ball refused to fall in and with the Diamonds defence claiming the turnover they were able to move through court and produce the knock-out blow in the most thrilling of finales.
An incredible game had been stolen from the England team but the huge support roared them off court and acknowledged how proud the team can be of their performance. Next up we have South Africa at 5pm tomorrow afternoon. Stay updated by following England Netball on facebook and twitter and tune into the BBC red button or online to watch the action live.