England into quarter-finals after Malaysia demolition
06 July 2011
England secured a place in the quarter-finals and delivered four quarters of quality netball today as they showed that they could keep the momentum going with a crushing 95 – 22 victory over Malaysia. England now face Northern Ireland on Friday morning for a place in the semi-finals and a potential clash with New Zealand.
It has to, and will be noted, that Malaysia are not a world class netballing nation. A ranking of 22 proves this, but it was not just the score that inspires confidence but the manner in which it was gained. At the start of the game it was obvious to all in attendance that Malaysia were looking a nervous side and within the opening minutes you feared that they might be overawed by their better known opponents. England once more started well; it was not as frenetic as yesterday but was equally effective. In the opening exchanges the team merely played within themselves and rushed into a 9 – 1 lead, Louisa Brownfield shooting particularly well.
Meanwhile in the mid-court Serena Guthrie and Tamsin Greenway were working well to provide feeds to Brownfield and her attacking partner, Rachel Dunn. Sonia Mkoloma was flying all over the court and pushing the tempo up with Serena Guthrie while Eboni Beckford-Chambers remained solid at the back. At the end of the first quarter England led 23 – 5, breaking the 20 goal barrier in the opening fifteen minutes for the third match in a row.
This was a professional display as Malaysia rarely troubled the defence and didn’t pose a genuine threat to England. The focus had to remain, after it dropped so markedly in yesterday’s second quarter, and perhaps as a consequence the cool head of Karen Atkinson was introduced for Guthrie. Once again England came out strong forcing regular turnovers and converting them to goals. The mid-court were picking passes with consummate ease as the shooters found plenty of space in the attacking circle. The only occasional problem was that some quick transition play saw the ball being tossed away or intercepted, but then you can’t have it all!
If a sky rocketing score was meant to slow the pace and exuberance of the England side, somebody forgot to tell the seven on court. Excellent pressure in all thirds was forcing Malaysia to play the ball a lot quicker than they desired and in turn they were making plenty of mistakes. This constant pressure on the opposition coupled with swift movement and direct passing allowed England to stretch their lead to 49 – 10 at half-time.
The interval gave Hawkins a chance to utilise the strength in depth of the England squad as Harten, Clarke, Guthrie and Mentor took to the court. At the start of the third quarter England continued to look a lot classier than their opponents and were really starting to punish the frailties of Malaysia. Then, out of nowhere, Malaysia started performing and began to find their passes and were making interceptions. Suddenly England’s scoring rate slowed down and the more intricate passes that were finding their destinations earlier, were now off target. Good work in defence from Francis and Mentor kept the Malaysian scoring down but the transition was not as smooth as it was in first half.
Happily, this period only lasted for a couple of minutes and once England threw off the shackles of a spirited Malaysian fight back, they were able to resume with normal order. Clarke, who was now operating at C, was working brilliantly with Atkinson and the two regularly combined to set up Dunn and Harten. The latter scoring with long range attempts so quickly you would have thought they were going out of fashion. By the time the whistle had blown to signal the end of the third quarter, England had again broken the 20 goal barrier and restricted Malaysia to just the 5. It was the definition of a comfortable performance with all the team doing what had to be done in a professional manner.
Pamela Cookey made her first appearance of the match in the fourth quarter as Dunn was given the opportunity to rest as once again all 12 players saw some action. Mkoloma also came back on for Francis. It was a relatively slow start to the fourth quarter as Malaysia held solid. Five minutes in and the quarter score read 4 – 4! Co-Captain Mkoloma was urging her team to press on and take the score higher and she received an incredible response.
Turnovers were created, passing kept simple and chances converted. At one stage, England went on a remarkable run of 11 goals without reply, suddenly all eyes turned to the clock to see if the magical three digit figure could be reached. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the clock won out and Hawkins’ side had to settle for the 95 posted. As the final whistle sounded a shattered Malaysian side congratulated England and received a generous ovation for their efforts from the partisan crowd. The small, but vociferous, section of traveling England fans applauded the team off court after witnessing their side score the most goals in a game, in the tournament so far.
Next up for England they face opposition slightly closer to home as Northern Ireland provide the opposition. The Northern Irish team upset the odds in overcoming Samoa this morning and will provide stiff competition for a place in the semi-finals. However, after today’s performance, all English eyes will be firmly focused on the semi-final and a potential encounter with the world number 1, New Zealand.
The Quarter Final match will be broadcast on Sky Sports 4, Sunday July 10th at 3pm. All images courtesy of the WNC Facebook site.